What is Erb’s palsy?
Also known as Erb-Duchenne palsy, Erb’s palsy is a form of paralysis that affects the brachial plexus, the group of nerves that control the muscles in the arm and hand.
Damage to these nerves can sometimes occur during difficult births, which can result in the nerves becoming bruised, stretched or torn. When this happens, the child may suffer from partial or complete paralysis in their arms, which may require long-term medical treatment to address, and in the most extreme cases the paralysis may be permanent.
What are the symptoms and treatments for Erb’s palsy?
Erb’s palsy can manifest in a number of different ways, including:
- A lack of muscle control in the arm, potentially resulting in a limp or paralysed limb
- A decrease or loss of sensation in the arm or hand
- An inability to grip with the affected hand
- A loss of control over the elbow or shoulder muscles
If your child is affected by Erb’s palsy, they may require one or more of the following treatments:
- Surgery to correct the damage and reattach any severed nerves
- Nerve transfers from another part of the body
- Electrical stimulation of the affected area
- Physiotherapy and massage to alleviate pain and recover physical functions
Depending on the severity of the injury, the child may need to cope with severe disabilities throughout their life.
What are the causes of Erb’s palsy?
Erb’s palsy is most commonly caused by shoulder dystocia during birth, a condition where the baby’s shoulders become stuck on the way out of the birth canal. If excessive force is applied to the baby’s head, neck or shoulders as a result of this, serious injuries can occur, including Erb’s palsy.
Although Erb’s palsy can occur at any age as a result of severe trauma to the head or shoulders, it is most frequently seen as a consequence of a difficult or mismanaged birthing process.
How can medical negligence contribute to Erb’s palsy?
There are a number of mistakes that medical professionals can make that may result in the child being affected by Erb’s palsy. These include:
- Failing to properly correct the positioning of the baby’s shoulders before delivery
- Failing to recommend a caesarean section instead of a vaginal birth when shoulder dystocia was foreseeable
- Using the wrong tools or improper force during the birthing process
- Failing to advise the mother of the potential risk of shoulder dystocia
If any of these occur and the baby is left with a birth injury as a result, it may be possible to make an Erb’s palsy claim.