What Causes Erb’s Palsy?

Erb’s palsy is the colloquial name for a certain type of brachial plexus palsy. When a child is born, their delicate neck and shoulder area must pass through the cervix, and any pressure on the brachial plexus – or neck nerves – can cause those nerves to rupture or bruise. This often leads to Erb’s palsy, which is a serious condition that may cause permanent issues with shoulder and neck mobility. Like many birth injuries of its kind, your child’s diagnosis of Erb’s palsy may entitle you to compensation for your losses.

But what exactly causes this condition, and what makes medical malpractice a likely culprit in most cases?  Our Baltimore medical malpractice attorneys can help you determine the cause of your child’s injury.

What Are the Main Causes of Erb’s Palsy?

Erb’s palsy affects an estimated one or two out of every thousand births, making the condition rather rare. The intensity of nerve damage can range from faint arm weakness that improves with time, to a total loss of motion and sensation in the neck and shoulder area.  In some cases, brachial plexus palsy may be inevitable, and doctors may not be able to limit the impact on your child. However, the vast majority of cases are caused by physical injury throughout the delivery process.

Erb’s palsy can range in seriousness, and so can the accidents that cause it. Some of the most common include:

  • Poor angling of the baby through the birth canal. Prior to labor, the unborn baby moves down through the uterus in preparation to leave the body. Some infants may become tangled in the process, and the arms can pass over the head as the infant exits the womb. In these cases, a skilled physician should be actively working to mitigate the risk of nerve damage, by exercising medical maneuvers and checking scans.
  • Stretching of the arms during a breech birth. When a baby is delivered in a breech presentation, the doctor may need to pull them out by the legs. If done incorrectly, the arms may extend over the child’s head during labor, causing the brachial plexus nerves to tear or stretch.
  • Incorrect use of forceps during delivery. Forceps and vacuum extraction tools can be dangerous, and although they’ve saved many lives in difficult labor situations, they must be handled with care. Using forceps may result in brachial plexus injury or shoulder dystocia.

Signs of Medical Malpractice: How to Identify Liability in Birth Injury

It can be very difficult to identify when a doctor has committed medical malpractice, largely because patients do not share the same intimate knowledge of anatomy and medical procedures. However, it is a doctor’s responsibility to inform you about all the risks when handling a difficult labor, like a breech birth or a face-first presentation. Once you have been informed, it’s vital the physician and any other attendant staff minimize the damage to your baby.

If you believe that your attending staff did not do this during delivery, it’s possible that you could have grounds for a medical malpractice case. These actions are measured against a “standard of care,” meaning that the judge will make a decision based on the standard practice for that procedure. Our injury law team at Brown & Barron, LLC has experience working with medical experts and physicians in the field of birth injury, and we can draw on that experience to formulate your case strategy.

Contact us today at (410) 698-1717 to get a free consultation, or fill out our online contact form to get in touch with our Baltimore office.

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