Erb’s Palsy or Brachial Plexus Injuries

What is Erb’s Palsy or Brachial Plexus?

The brachial plexus is a large network of nerves which run from the neck to the arm. These nerves allow the arm and hand to move and feel. With Erb’s Palsy, this can affect any or all 5 of the main nerves that enable the arm and hand to feel and move. When these nerves are damaged it can cause partial or complete paralysis. The damage to the affected nerve can range from bruising to tearing. Sometimes the injury can heal in time, but for some the damage to the nerves is permanent.

What causes Erb’s palsy or brachial plexus injuries?

This condition is normally caused by birth trauma when there is excessive traction or force used on the baby’s head, neck or shoulders during the delivery. Erb’s palsy arises when the baby’s shoulders get trapped in the birth canal. This causes the baby’s chest and umbilical cord to be compressed, which prevents the baby from being able to breathe.

What are the symptoms of Erb’s palsy or brachial plexus injuries?

A classic sign is an elbow which does not bend and the hand being held in a backwards position.

Signs that nerve damage has occurred include a limp hand, sometimes it can also cause droopy eyelids and the pupils may be slightly smaller on the same side as the weakened arm. Also, the baby may also face away from the affected arm and they may be unable to face forward for a period of time.

It may be possible for the child to have an operation to help the nerve and restore some function to the muscle, but often the child will still be left with some weakness in the arm.

How does negligence occur with Erb’s Palsy or Brachial Plexus Injuries?

During the course of a pregnancy, the size of the baby should be monitored. It is necessary to monitor the size of the baby for several reasons, including ensuring appropriate birth plans are made. If a baby is very large this can cause complications with vaginal deliveries and as such, it is necessary to plan for a caesarean section or episiotomy.

However, if such steps are not taken during the delivery of a large baby, then the shoulders of the baby can become stuck which is very dangerous. In such situations, the nerves in the baby’s shoulders can be injured which can cause paralysis to the arm or hand.

Further, it may be that there was a failure to diagnose and treat the mother as suffering from maternal/gestational diabetes which can cause babies to grow very large. Negligence can also occur when there is a failure to follow protocols for shoulder dystocia.

Also, negligence can occur when unnecessary and excessive force is used during the delivery which results in injury. In cases like this, you may be able to make a birth injuries claim.

If you are concerned that your pregnancy or labour were mismanaged and it has caused your child to suffer from Erb’s Palsy or Brachial Plexus Injuries please contact us today for a free, no obligation chat.