Erb’s Palsy Lawyer Cleveland
What is Erb’s Palsy?
Erb’s palsy is a specific type of obstetrical brachial plexus injury. It occurs when there is damage to the nerves that run from the spinal cord to the shoulder, neck, and arms during birth. These nerves are known as the brachial plexus or Erb’s point. They control movement and sensory feelings in the arm, hand, and fingers. Erb’s palsy (sometimes called Erb-Duchenne palsy) can be the result of medical malpractice.
Causes of Erb’s Palsy
Erb’s Palsy is often caused by specific circumstances (sometimes medical negligence) during childbirth that put excessive pressure or strain on the baby’s shoulder, leading to damage to the brachial plexus nerves. These circumstances include:
This occurs when the baby’s head has passed through the birth canal, but the shoulders become stuck behind the mother’s pelvic bone. This can occur if the baby is larger than average, the mother’s pelvis is smaller than average, or due to certain positioning of the baby during delivery.
The use of tools such as forceps or vacuum extractors to aid in the delivery can increase the risk of brachial plexus injuries. These instruments may put pressure on the baby’s head and shoulders, potentially damaging the nerves.
If the baby is in a breech (bottom-first) position or other non-standard presentation, the risk of shoulder dystocia and brachial plexus injuries is increased.
Rapid or Forceful Delivery
If the baby is delivered too quickly or with excessive force, it can lead to the stretching or tearing of the brachial plexus nerves.
Any child’s birth injury is devastating. It becomes even worse when it was preventable, and caused by medical negligence. I have been a top Erb’s Palsy attorney for more than 40 years. If your child is suffering from this difficult nerve condition, you need to call me. I’ll Make Them Pay!®
Erb’s Palsy Prevention
A doctor could potentially prevent Erb’s Palsy by taking appropriate steps during childbirth:
Recognizing Risk Factors
Obstetricians and medical staff should be aware of potential risk factors for shoulder dystocia, such as the baby’s size and position, as well as maternal factors. This awareness can help them anticipate and manage potential complications.
Proper Technique for Assisted Delivery
If an assisted delivery is necessary, using proper techniques and ensuring the forceps or vacuum extractors are applied correctly, can reduce the risk of nerve damage.
Gentle Delivery Practices
Doctors should avoid overly forceful or rapid deliveries, which can reduce the likelihood of stretching or tearing the brachial plexus nerves.
In cases of shoulder dystocia, doctors should be trained in maneuvers to safely dislodge the baby’s shoulder and prevent nerve injury.
When there are indications of potential complications, doctors should communicate effectively with the parents and discuss the potential risks and benefits of various delivery methods.
It’s important to note that while doctors can take steps to minimize the risk, Erb’s Palsy can sometimes occur due to unpredictable factors. If a doctor’s actions or decisions during childbirth fall below the accepted standard of care and directly lead to the injury, there may be grounds for a medical malpractice claim.
Brachial Plexus Injury
The brachial plexus is a complex network of nerves that originates from the spinal cord in the neck and extends into the arm. It plays a critical role in controlling the movement and sensation of the shoulder, arm, and hand. The term “brachial” refers to the arm, and “plexus” signifies a network of interconnecting nerves.
The brachial plexus is formed by a combination of nerve roots from the cervical spine, specifically from the fifth cervical (C5) to the first thoracic (T1) vertebrae. These nerve roots merge and divide into various branches, ultimately forming a network that innervates the muscles responsible for arm and hand movement, as well as conveying sensory information back to the brain.
During birth, the brachial plexus can be vulnerable to injury under certain circumstances. The birthing process, particularly difficult or complicated deliveries, can put stress on the baby’s head, neck, and shoulders, potentially leading to a brachial plexus birth injuries. This is most commonly observed in cases of shoulder dystocia, which occurs when the baby’s head passes through the birth canal but the shoulders become stuck behind the mother’s pelvic bone.
Several Factors During Childbirth May Contribute to Brachial Plexus Injury:
When the baby’s shoulders are trapped behind the mother’s pelvic bone after the head is born, excessive pressure on the baby’s neck and shoulders can stretch or damage the brachial plexus nerves.
The use of forceps or vacuum extraction to aid in delivery can increase the likelihood of brachial plexus injury due to the additional force and pressure exerted on the baby’s head and neck.
Babies positioned feet-first (breech) or in other non-standard presentations have an increased risk of shoulder dystocia and brachial plexus injury.
When the baby is larger than average, it can make passage through the birth canal more challenging, increasing the risk of nerve injury.
Conditions like gestational diabetes, which can result in larger-than-average babies, and obesity can contribute to an increased risk of brachial plexus injury during birth.
Symptoms of Erb’s Palsy
Erb’s Palsy is characterized by a range of symptoms that affect the movement and sensation of the affected arm. The severity of these symptoms can vary depending on the extent of nerve damage. Common symptoms of Erb’s Palsy include:
Weakness or Paralysis: The affected arm may have reduced muscle strength or be partially or completely paralyzed. This weakness can impact the ability to lift, grasp, and control the arm.
Limited Range of Motion: The arm may have difficulty moving through its full range of motion. This can affect everyday activities such as reaching, lifting, and performing simple tasks.
Loss of Sensation: Some individuals with Erb’s Palsy may experience reduced sensation or numbness in parts of the affected arm.
Abnormal Arm Positioning: The arm may be held in an unusual position due to muscle imbalances and weakness. This can include a bent elbow, rotated forearm, and a tendency for the arm to hang limply by the side.
Muscle Atrophy: Over time, the muscles of the affected arm may become smaller (atrophy) due to reduced use and nerve impairment.
Difficulty with Activities of Daily Living: Tasks that require both hands, such as dressing, grooming, and feeding, can be challenging for individuals with Erb’s Palsy.
Impaired Grip Strength: Grasping objects might be difficult due to weak hand muscles.
Shoulder and Arm Pain: Some individuals with Erb’s Palsy may experience pain or discomfort in the affected shoulder and arm.
Asymmetry: The affected arm may appear noticeably smaller or less developed compared to the unaffected arm.
Fine Motor Skill Impairments: Delicate tasks that involve precise movements, such as buttoning a shirt or tying shoelaces, can be particularly challenging.
Physical Developmental Delays: In infants and young children, Erb’s Palsy can lead to delays in reaching developmental milestones that involve the use of the affected arm.
If you suspect your child’s brachial plexus injury caused Erb’s palsy, you need to hold the doctor accountable. I’ll Make Them Pay!®
Life With Erb’s Palsy
Individuals with Erb’s Palsy may face a variety of challenges that stem from the limitations in movement, strength, and sensation in the affected arm. These challenges can impact various aspects of their daily lives, interactions, and overall well-being. Here are some common challenges someone with Erb’s Palsy might experience:
Difficulty with Activities of Daily Living: Tasks like dressing, bathing, grooming, and feeding may be more challenging due to limited use of the affected arm.
Fine Motor Skill Limitations: Precise tasks that require coordination and control of fingers, such as writing, using utensils, and handling small objects, can be problematic.
Independence in Self-Care: Achieving independence in self-care activities might take longer for individuals with Erb’s Palsy due to the need for adaptation and learning new ways to perform tasks.
Social and Peer Interactions: Children with Erb’s Palsy may face challenges during play and social interactions, particularly if their condition affects their ability to participate in physical activities or sports.
Education and Learning: Holding writing tools or manipulating objects in a classroom setting can be challenging, potentially affecting handwriting, note-taking, and other learning activities.
Psychological Impact: Coping with a visible physical difference or limitations in daily activities can lead to emotional challenges, affecting self-esteem and self-confidence.
Occupational Limitations: Career choices may be influenced by the limitations of the affected arm. Certain professions or tasks that require full arm strength and mobility might be less feasible.
Physical Strain: Overcompensation with the unaffected arm might lead to strain or injuries over time, particularly if the individual is relying heavily on one arm.
Pain and Discomfort: Individuals with Erb’s Palsy may experience pain, discomfort, or muscle tightness in the affected shoulder and arm.
Mobility and Balance: In some cases, the imbalance between the affected and unaffected arms may affect overall posture, balance, and mobility.
Participation in Sports and Recreation: Depending on the severity of the condition, participation in sports and recreational activities could be limited.
Body Image and Self-Perception: Managing body image and self-perception can be challenging, especially during adolescence when social pressures are strong.
There are several treatment options and strategies that can help individuals living with Erb’s Palsy manage their condition and improve their quality of life. These can include medical interventions, therapeutic approaches, assistive devices, and support from healthcare professionals and caregivers:
Surgery: In cases of severe nerve damage or muscle imbalance, surgical interventions may be considered. Nerve repair, nerve grafting, or tendon transfer surgeries can help restore function and improve muscle coordination.
Medications: Pain medications, anti-inflammatory drugs, and muscle relaxants might be prescribed to manage pain, discomfort, and muscle tightness associated with Erb’s Palsy.
Medical Devices and Assistive Technology:
Braces and Splints: Customized braces or splints can help support the affected arm, maintain proper positioning, and prevent contractures.
Orthotics: Specialized orthotic devices may be used to provide support and assistance in maintaining proper joint alignment.
Adaptive Equipment: Assistive devices such as reachers, modified utensils, and buttonhooks can help individuals perform daily activities more easily.
Physical Therapy: Physical therapists design exercises and activities to improve range of motion, strength, and coordination in the affected arm. They also work on preventing muscle tightness and maintaining joint flexibility.
Occupational Therapy: Occupational therapists focus on helping individuals develop fine motor skills and adapt to daily tasks. They may teach strategies to perform tasks using both hands or adapting to limitations.
Speech Therapy: In some cases, speech therapists can assist with improving oral motor skills and addressing speech and swallowing difficulties that may be associated with Erb’s Palsy.
Aquatic Therapy: Water-based exercises in a controlled environment can provide gentle resistance and support for movement, helping individuals build strength and coordination.
Care from Others:
Family and Caregiver Support: Family members and caregivers play a crucial role in providing emotional support, assisting with activities of daily living, and encouraging participation in therapies.
Educational Support: Teachers and educators can work with individuals to develop strategies for learning and participating in school activities.
Psychological Support: Psychologists or counselors can provide support to help individuals cope with the emotional challenges that may arise due to living with Erb’s Palsy.
Peer Support Groups: Connecting with others who have similar experiences can provide a sense of community, shared understanding, and practical advice.
No parent wants to see their child struggle. If you child has the chance of suffering any of the limitations commonly associated with Erb’s palsy, I’m sure you want to get them all of the help you can. But, these treatments and aids are expensive. I understand how difficult it can be, and I want to help. Give me a call, and I’ll Make Them Pay!®
If Erb’s Palsy is caused by medical malpractice, you and your family may be eligible to seek compensation for the damages. Here are some potential damages that may be pursued in a medical malpractice case involving Erb’s Palsy:
Medical Expenses: This includes current and future medical costs related to treating Erb’s Palsy, such as surgeries, therapies, medications, doctor visits, and assistive devices.
Pain and Suffering: Compensation for physical pain, emotional distress, and suffering experienced as a result of the injury and subsequent treatments.
Loss of Enjoyment of Life: Damages for the inability to engage in activities and experiences that the individual enjoyed before the injury.
Loss of Earning Capacity: If the individual’s ability to earn a living is diminished due to Erb’s Palsy, they might be eligible to seek compensation for the loss of future income or career opportunities.
Permanent Disability or Disfigurement: Compensation for any permanent disability, disfigurement, or scarring caused by the condition.
Rehabilitation and Therapy Costs: The expenses associated with ongoing physical therapy, occupational therapy, and other rehabilitative measures.
Home Modifications: If modifications to the home are necessary to accommodate the individual’s needs, such as wheelchair ramps or bathroom adaptations, the cost of these modifications might be included.
Assistive Devices and Equipment: Compensation for the cost of adaptive equipment, braces, splints, and other devices required to enhance mobility and daily functioning.
Emotional Distress: Damages for psychological suffering, anxiety, depression, and other emotional consequences resulting from the injury.
Loss of Consortium: This pertains to damages awarded to a spouse for the loss of companionship, intimacy, and support due to the injury.
Legal Fees and Costs: The expenses associated with pursuing a medical malpractice claim, including attorney fees, court costs, and expert witness fees.
Punitive Damages: In some cases of gross negligence or intentional misconduct, punitive damages might be awarded to deter similar behavior in the future.
Do you think your child’s Erb’s palsy was caused by medical malpractice or neglect by a doctor or medical professional? Call me today and we’ll discuss your case. “I’ll Make Them Pay!®” so that your child can receive the necessary care and treatment to live a better life.