Erb’s Palsy, One of the Most Common Birth Injuries in West Virginia
There are several types of birth injuries that have potentially life-changing consequences for children and their families. Some of these injuries may respond to treatment or surgery and resolve themselves over a length of time. However, there are others that may result in permanent disability or disfigurement causing much heartbreak and emotional trauma for new parents and family members of the affected children. Erb’s palsy, also commonly known as a brachial plexus injury, is a birth injury that tends to occur following difficult births.
It is important to note that a majority of factors that lead to brachial plexus injury and Erb’s palsy are preventable with diligent monitoring of mother and child before and during labor and delivery. It is the responsibility of the doctor and the medical team to carefully anticipate and evaluate these risk factors associated with the mother and the baby and do what is necessary to prevent any birth trauma. If your child has developed Erb’s palsy as the result of a birth injury, our experienced West Virginia Erb’s palsy lawyers can help you closely examine your legal rights and options.
What is Erb’s Palsy?
Erb’s palsy is a condition that stems from an injury to the nerves of the brachial plexus or the upper arms during labor and delivery, specifically when the infant’s neck is stretched to the side during a difficult birth.
Erb’s palsy is said to affect one in every 1,000 babies. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves in the neck area that gives rise to the nerves of the arm. The nerves of the brachial plexus provide movement and feeling to the shoulder, arm, hand, and fingers. The word “palsy” refers to weakness.
Erb’s palsy or brachial plexus palsy may cause arm weakness, loss of motion, or even paralysis, depending on the nature and severity of the birth injury. Some infants may recover movement and feeling in the affected arm with physical therapy.
What are the Types of Nerve Injuries that Occur in Birth?
There are four distinct types of brachial plexus nerve injuries that may happen during a difficult labor and delivery:
Neuropraxia: This type of injury is caused by a nerve that is stretched but does not rupture. This is not considered a very severe injury although it may manifest as a shocking or burning sensation. However, these types of injuries tend to heal on their own within a few months.
Neuroma: This is a more serious type of injury that leads to damage to nerve fibers resulting in scar tissue. This scar tissue may then press on the healthy nerve causing a condition known as a neuroma. Those who suffer from this type of injury may be able to recover, but not completely.
Rupture: A rupture is a stretch injury that causes the nerve to tear. Such injuries will not heal by themselves. These types of injuries may require nerve graft surgery.
Avulsions: An avulsion is an extremely severe nerve injury that occurs when a nerve is ripped off from the spinal cord. This may be repaired with nerve graft surgery. However, in many cases, it may not be possible for the child to regain function in the arm, even after a nerve graft survey.
Symptoms of Erb’s Palsy in Infants
The symptoms your child exhibits depend on the nature and severity of the injury. Erb’s palsy may vary from child to child. Some of the common symptoms include weakness in the injured area, loss of sensation, inability to grip objects, impaired nerve development, and complete or partial paralysis in the arm that has been affected. Some children may experience weakness in the arm where the nerve injuries occurred, which may result in the arm being bent at the elbow. Other victims may experience more severe symptoms such as being unable to move the arm. In some cases, children may prefer to use one arm over the other. Children may also experience pain, depending on the extent of nerve damage.
Risks and Causes of Erb’s Palsy
While there are several factors that lead to Erb’s palsy in infants, it is often the outcome of difficult labor and deliveries. The injury is mainly caused when a doctor pulls the baby out with more force than necessary.
It is important to note that Erb’s palsy is preventable with proper monitoring of mother and child, assessing the risk factors involving the mother and child that may lead to a difficult birth, and making sound and prompt decisions regarding whether to resort to a Cesarean section or C-section, which would help avoid a long labor.
Here are some of the most common scenarios during pregnancy and birth that may lead to Erb’s palsy:
Breech birth: When the baby is born feet-first, he or she is at a heightened risk for Erb’s palsy. A majority of babies who are in breech position are delivered through C-section because it is widely recognized to be safer here than being born vaginally.
Size of the child: When a child is larger than average, it may become more difficult to get the baby out of the birth canal. When a newborn weighs more than average (about 7 pounds), the risks of complications are greater.
Diabetic or obese mother: Children born to mothers who have diabetes or are obese have a greater risk for complications including growth anomalies and breathing problems.
Shoulder dystocia: This condition is when the baby’s shoulder gets stuck in the mother’s pelvic area. This may occur because the baby is too large or if the mother’s pelvis is too small. If a baby is stuck in the pelvic area for too long, he or she may experience breathing issues.
Excessive force: When a child is stuck in the birth canal and unable to come out, a physician may pull on the child’s arms or use excessive force with birth assistive tools such as vacuum extractors or forceps. This may also cause Erb’s palsy especially if the nerves of the brachial plexus are stretched.
Erb’s Palsy Lawsuit in West Virginia
If your child has developed Erb’s palsy as a result of medical negligence or because your doctor failed to anticipate reasonable risks of complications during birth, or because your doctor used excessive force during delivery, you may be able to seek compensation by filing an Erb’s palsy lawsuit.
You and your child may be able to receive compensation for all medical expenses that stem from your child’s injuries including past, present, and future costs. You may also be able to obtain rehabilitation and therapy costs.
Our experienced West Virginia birth injury lawyers have a successful track record of securing maximum compensation for our injured clients. We will fight hard for your rights and your child’s rights, help you obtain the compensation you need to secure your child’s future, and hold the at-fault parties accountable.