Pennsylvania Erb’s Palsy Lawsuits
Imagine that the most exciting day of your life is here and your baby is born. Imagine then that you learn that your baby’s arm and shoulder are injured and you are told that he may never be able to properly use them. Your most exciting day turns from a wonderful celebration to concern about your child’s future and how his life will be affected. Your newborn has Erb’s Palsy and both you and he might have a lifetime of difficulty and expenses to worry about. If this was your experience, please contact Lowenthal & Abrams’ attorneys. We have successfully handled birth injury cases and will work with you to get the best result possible for you and your child.
What is Erb’s Palsy?
Erb’s Palsy is an injury to the brachial plexus in newborns. The disorder is a result of damage to the nerves in the baby’s upper arm. Most often, only one arm is hurt. This injury is called Erb’s palsy because it normally happens due to a lesion at the part of the body called the Erb’s point, which is near where the baby’s neck and cranial nerves merge together to form the upper part of the brachial plexus. This injury causes a loss of movement or weakness in the arm and it can result in lifelong difficulties for a child. On occasion, Erb’s Palsy cannot be prevented, but sometimes, it is a direct result of the medical team being too rough on the baby during birth. In such cases, the damage might be medical malpractice for which you can seek compensation. Fortunately, many babies completely recover from these shoulder injuries in a period of 3 to 6 months. But, if they do not, the outlook is poor and the baby may suffer permanent damage. This can include:
- Permanent weakness or paralysis of the affected arm
- Tightening and contractions of the muscles in the affected arm throughout the baby’s life
Types of Nerve Damage and Potential Treatments
There are four types of nerve injuries that may occur individually or simultaneously in an injured arm. In all cases, they impact the baby’s sense of feeling and can cause permanent paralysis. The severity of the injury impacts the likelihood of healing and whether surgery will be necessary for your infant. The types of nerve injuries that might be implicated in your baby’s case include:
- Avulsions – This is the most severe type of injury. The nerve is completely torn away from the spinal cord. Such an injury cannot heal by itself nor can the nerve be reattached to the spinal cord. A potential treatment is a nerve graft, though, whether such a treatment will be successfully is difficult to say.
- Ruptures – A rupture is when the nerve is torn. Medical intervention is required, normally the nerve is spliced with another nerve from the newborn’s body.
- Neuromas – A Neuroma is when the nerve is badly stretched. Such injuries, while healing, tend to form scar tissue and fibers, which generally have a permanent impact on the baby’s brachial plexus and arm.
- Neurapraxia – The least serious of the injuries, in Neurapraxia, a nerve is stretched but not torn. These kinds of injuries are painful, but they often are capable of healing on their own or with minimal medical intervention such as massage.
If surgery is necessary, it should generally be done within the first three to six months of the baby’s life. Otherwise, chances for improvement are greatly reduced. If the injury is mild, especially in the case of a minor stretching of the nerve, non-surgical treatment might be an option. This generally includes physical therapy, such as range of motion exercises or Botox injections and other physical therapy techniques. If this does not improve the problems, surgery might become necessary.
As noted, Erb’s palsy is a direct result of a difficult birth. There are a number of factors that make it more likely that your baby will experience this kind of injury, some of which are preventable, some less so.
- Improper use of forceps or other extraction tools
- Labor lasting too long
- High birth weight or large infant size
- Small maternal size
- Breech birth
Improper use of extraction tools is frequently malpractice. If other risks factors exist, the delivery team should be aware of them and do what it can to minimize the risk of harm to the mother and child. If labor is lasting too long, a Cesarean section might be necessary. Similarly, if the mother is having a difficulty delivery, action might be necessary on the part of the doctor and his team. It is the job of the obstetrician to be aware of problems and to follow the medical standard of care to prevent birth injuries.
There are a number of symptoms that will tell you that your child might have Erb’s palsy. The general issue will be when the baby seems to suffer from a weakness in the arm, such that he limits his movement as compared to his other arm, or perhaps cannot even move it at all. Likely, the baby will be in pain, causing him to cry a great deal. Symptoms for which you should be on the alert include:
- Limp arm, which the baby might hold against his body
- Paralysis, partial or full
- Issues with motor function in the upper arm
- Sensory problems, meaning the baby does not feel in the damaged arm in the way he does in the uninjured arm
- Circulatory, muscular and nervous system development problems in the injured arm
If you see any of these symptoms, it is critical that you have your baby checked by a doctor as soon as possible. Early intervention is important if your newborn is to have any chance for improvement.
If your baby has permanent damage to his arm and the cause of his injury was medical malpractice, you and your child are entitled to compensation. When someone suffers a permanent brachial plexus injury, he will have lifelong issues that might require expensive assistance throughout his life. He also might experience constant pain and suffering. You and your infant should not have to bear these costs alone, and your baby should be compensated for the lifelong impact of this serious damage to his body. Contact our Erb’s Palsy lawyers for assistance. The consultation is free and there is no fee unless we are successful on you and your baby’s behalf.