Virtually everyone has heard of cerebral palsy–the brain injury many children suffer at birth as a result of oxygen deprivation. However, far fewer community members have likely heard of Erb’s palsy, which is also an injury that affects many local children and arises during childbirth, potentially due to medical malpractice.
What Is Erb’s Palsy?
Erb’s palsy refers to a form of brachial plexus injury. The brachial plexus is a bundle of nerves that exist around the shoulder. When this bundle is damaged, then the resulting harm often seriously affects the child’s ability to move the shoulder, arm, wrist hand, and fingers. Brachial plexus injuries are not only associated with Erb’s palsy, but also traumatic injuries to adults with significant forceful lateral injuries to the shoulder, neck and head, such as in motorcycle accidents.
When Does It Develop?
Erb’s palsy is often caused by excessive force used during childbirth. As you might expect, newborn bodies are quite sensitive, and so extreme care must be taken to ensure their new muscles, bones, joints, and nerves are not overtaxed. Sadly, in certain situations medical providers may not be as careful and required in applying that force. More particularly, the brachial plexus nerves are often stretched or torn when pressure is placed on the arms during a breech birth or when the neck is pressed to the side when the shoulders (referred to as shoulder dystocia) are exiting the body during a traditional birth.
Those familiar with the injury explain that the risk of brachial plexus damage is more likely in certain situations, such as a breech delivery or when the infant is larger than average. In general, all situations where the birth is more traumatic, the higher the risk of excess force being applied. The intention is always to facilitate the birth, but the risk of applying the force and causing injury often outweighs the benefit of the force.