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What is Erb's palsy?

Also called brachial palsy, Erb's palsy is a birth injury to a baby's brachial plexus, a nerve cluster that runs through the baby's arms from the spinal cord. Parents in North Carolina may not know that this injury occurs most often when too much pressure is applied to the baby's shoulder, neck or head during a difficult delivery. The use of vacuum devices or forceps could also cause the brachial plexus to stretch too far, tearing or rupturing the nerves, when too much pressure is applied.

Erb's palsy happens in about two of every 1,000 deliveries and most frequently in babies that weigh more than average. The condition has the potential to cause limpness or paralysis in the babies' arms, as well as loss of feeling and little to no movement in their fingers and hands. Babies with this birth injury usually hold the arm that is affected very close to them, and it could appear that they are unable to move their arms, fingers or hands. Therapies and treatments that involve special exercises could at least improve the condition. In severe cases, affected babies may undergo surgery.

Since the cause of Erb's palsy is the application of too much pressure on a baby's head, shoulder or neck during delivery, this typically results from the actions of the medical professional who is performing the delivery. It might also result from a physician or obstetrician not recognizing the need for a cesarean section or not adequately delivering the baby when shoulder dystocia is involved.

Parents who believe that their physicians or obstetricians were negligent during their deliveries, causing Erb's palsy in their children, might have cases for medical malpractice. An attorney who has experience in this area can help determine how best to proceed.

Source: Findlaw, "Birth Injury", November 18, 2014

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