Austin Erb’s Palsy Attorneys
It is one of the worst nightmares of prospective parents. After nine months of a normal pregnancy and excitement over the birth of a child, parents discover their baby suffered an injury during the birthing process from which the baby may suffer lifelong complications. When parents learn the birth injury was caused by medical negligence and could have been avoided, the grief and frustration can be overwhelming.
Birth Injury Resulting in Erb’s Palsy
Erb’s Palsy is caused by an injury to the brachial plexus complex that occurs during the birth process. The brachial plexus is a group of nerve fibers that run from the spine through the neck and are involved in movement of the arms. When these fibers are damaged, paralysis of the affected arm occurs. Some of the most common causes of Erb’s Palsy include:
- Babies with a high birth weight. The baby’s shoulder may be caught behind the mother’s pelvic bone. The brachial plexus nerve fibers can be injured if the attending health care provider applies excessive force to deliver the baby.
- Babies with a breech presentation, which means the baby is delivered feet first. The baby’s arms are raised and sometimes, pressure during the extraction is exerted in a way that causes brachial plexus damage.
- Vacuum extraction.
- Use of low or mid-forceps during delivery.
Erb’s Palsy Symptoms
Most of the symptoms of Erb’s Palsy are observable almost immediately or soon after birth. Other symptoms are revealed within the first few months of the baby’s life. Symptoms include:
- The affected arm hangs limply at the baby’s side. The infant is unable to move either the upper or lower part of the arm. Sometimes, the entire arm is affected.
- The baby has a decreased grip, or no grip at all, in the hand of the affected arm.
- The muscles of the arm atrophy as time goes by.
- The baby has a loss of motor function in the arm.
The long-term effects are unpredictable. Some baby’s fully recover with proper treatment. Others only partially recover or do not recover at all and are permanently disabled.
When children with Erb’s Palsy begin school, they may not be able to participate in sports and other routine extracurricular activities. They may have difficulty engaging in routine activities of daily living, including grooming and toileting. These injuries often cause the parents of the injured child to suffer from emotional distress, not to mention the uncertainty of the child’s long term disability and future medical and assistive needs. Caring for a child who has been disabled from a medical professional’s negligence can be emotionally financially devastating to a family.
Treatment depends on whether the nerves in the brachial plexus were just stretched, or severely damaged. There are non-surgical and surgical treatments available, depending on the severity of the injury.
In less severe injuries, physical therapy and massage may provide benefits. Parents are generally trained to also provide therapy at home, since it may take a long time before the child gains any use of the affected arm. Electrical stimulation of the soft tissues injured can provide minimal relief.
Botox injections in the damaged shoulder have helped by rebalancing the muscles and preventing them from contracting. If noticeable improvement has not occurred within about eight weeks, the child is referred for possible surgical intervention.
Surgery may be performed within the first year of the baby’s birth, generally within the first three to six months, when there is a greater chance of recovery. The longer surgery is delayed for a baby who suffered direct nerve injury to the brachial plexus, the less likely it is that surgery will be successful. Importantly, surgical intervention is not always a viable treatment option, and is frequently unsuccessful.
The Erb’s Palsy website states that nerve-grafting surgery is a procedure that shows the most “significant improvements.” Babies who undergo nerve decompression or neurolysis show less improvement than those who have nerve-grafting surgery.
Birth Injury Settlements
Except in rare cases, Erb’s Palsy is caused by a medical error during the birth process. Common malpractice issues involve:
- Not using proper techniques to prevent the baby’s shoulder from getting stuck under the mother’s pelvic bone.
- Using excessive force to extract the baby from the birth canal..
- Delayed action when confronted with delivery complications.
- Incorrectly estimating, or failing to estimate, the baby’s birth weight before birth so that a cesarean delivery could be scheduled.
These types of cases require an experienced birth injury lawyer. To effectively help families faced with a child diagnosed with Erb’s Palsy, you need a lawyer that knows what medical expert witnesses are needed to develop your case and protect your child’s future. We have represented many families who have suffered devastating losses as a result of preventable birth injuries.
These cases require the involvement of Life Care Planning physician experts, OBGYN experts, pediatric nueroligsits and orthopedists, and other medical experts that may be required depending on the facts of your specific case. If your child has been diagnosed with Erb’s Palsy, contact our experienced and knowledgeable birth injury attorney at The Cagle Law Firm. We offer a free consultation where we review the facts of your case and advise you on the best way to proceed. Our office is in Austin and we serve all those living in surrounding areas.