Erb’s Palsy Lawyers in Massachusetts
Handling Brachial Plexus Injury Cases
The brachial plexus refers to a set of nerves near a person’s neck that controls the nerve functions for his or her arms. When this set of nerves is damaged, Erb’s Palsy might be the result. Erb’s Palsy is a form of brachial plexus, and it affects about 1-2 babies out of every 1,000, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Unfortunately, sometimes Erb’s Palsy is the result of a doctor’s error during birth, and that doctor might actually be held responsible for his or her negligence.
If a negligent or reckless doctor has caused your baby to have Erb’s Palsy during or just after birth, then you could qualify for financial compensation from that negligent doctor for the many expenses and losses you and your family has endured.
What Is Erb’s Palsy?
Erb’s Palsy is a type of brachial plexus injury that is known to affect a child’s shoulder and arm. Of all shoulder dystocia injuries, Erb’s Palsy is known to be the most common. The condition can be a causational factor for partial or total paralysis in the arm, shoulder or hand. In the majority of cases, children suffer only temporary paralysis of the arm or shoulder. However, in approximately 20% of cases the nerves are disconnected from the spine, which causes the paralysis to be permanent.
Causes of Erb’s Palsy
During a difficult labor, a number of different complications can arise that can cause a baby to be affected by this unfortunate condition. One way that Erb’s Palsy can occur is when the braxial plexus nerves are affected. This can be caused by a baby having an awkwardly-angled passage through the birth canal, with its arm being pulled in one direction and its head being pulled in the opposite direction.
Another potentially risky scenario can arise in a delivery method known as cephalic presentation. In cephalic presentation the baby is delivered face-first, and there is a risk of the baby having its shoulders pulled. This can lead to cephalo-pelvic disproportion, which refers to the baby’s size being disproportionate to the size of the birth canal.
In another delivery method known as a breech birth, there is a potential risk if the delivery is not handled carefully. The brachial plexus nerves of the baby are at risk of being harmed or stressed if the baby’s arms are pulled backward over the head as the doctor who is conducting the delivery brings the baby through the birth canal by the legs. In these scenarios, the baby is stretched and this stretching can be problematic. There is a risk of shoulder dislocation occurring, but in all cases, harm to the baby’s brachial plexus nerves is likely.
Different Types of Erb’s Palsy
Children can be affected by this condition in multiple different ways. A symptom that some children may experience is losing sensation or control of the muscles in their arm. Another common symptom is not being able to use their hands as easily. Generally, there are four main types of injuries to the nerve that are associated with Erb’s Palsy.
- The nerve is damaged, but still connected to the spine (known as a rupture)
- The nerve is disconnected from the spine (known as an avulsion)
- The nerve was damaged and has healed but has left scar tissue (known as a neuroma)
- The site of the injury has localized nerve trauma (known as neuroplaxia)
Signs of Erb’s Palsy
Erb’s Palsy may not immediately be detectable by parents, but there are some signs of this condition that you might notice after birth, including the following:
- Single arm weakness
- Numbness in a single arm
- Partial paralysis in one arm
- Total paralysis in one arm
Each of these symptoms might indicate that a baby has Erb’s Palsy. And, if you believe a doctor or other medical professional was negligent in treating or caring for your baby, causing this condition, you should consider holding them accountable for the many consequences their actions have caused.
There are a number of reasons why choosing to take legal action in this situation may be beneficial. For example, filing a lawsuit for the doctor’s error in their care of your baby can serve to prevent similar cases from happening in the future. Filing a lawsuit will make hospitals and doctors take notice and take extra care to try to prevent these kinds of injuries.
Another reason to take legal action is to recover the medical expenses that are involved in treating your baby for Erb’s Palsy. While your infant is recovering, there will be doctor visits and other medical costs. In addition, there can be rehabilitation costs, and the expenses can be a financial hardship for your entire family.
Can Erb’s Palsy Be Prevented?
Erb’s Palsy can be prevented with careful and attentive prenatal care, and by your obstetrician’s advance planning for the birth. An obstetrician’s obligation to plan ahead for your baby’s birth is a critical part of prenatal care.
There are situations that may increase the risk of Erb’s Palsy complications occurring. These could include, but are not limited to:
- Prior delivery of a child with shoulder dystocia
- Induced labor
- Larger babies
- Mothers with small pelvises
- Breech presentation.
It is an experienced obstetrician’s responsibility to be fully aware of these factors and be prepared for any unforeseen challenges that could arise during the birthing process.
While the risk of shoulder dystocia is increased by these factors, anticipating these risk factors and proper care during the delivery process should keep the newborn safe and unharmed. The obstetrician who is performing the delivery of the baby should take all of the appropriate measures to prevent this potential birth injury from happening.
Our team of Erb’s Palsy attorneys at Crowe & Mulvey, LLP have ample experience in litigating these types of cases. It is important, as soon as possible after diagnosis, to consult with an attorney who is experienced and knowledgeable about Erb’s Palsy cases to discuss the circumstances that led to your child’s injury.
Treatments for Erb’s Palsy
While many infants outgrow the trauma caused by Erb’s Palsy, the syndrome has been known to leave permanent damage in some cases. Fortunately there are a few treatment options for these children:
- Daily physical therapy is the most frequently employed treatment method, as it is non-surgical and has been proven effective.
- Nerve grafts are a surgical procedure that doctors may begin to consider if there is no change in your baby’s condition after three to six months. Grafts involve splicing undamaged nerves from other parts of the infant to the damaged brachial plexus.
- Nerve transfers are a step up from nerve grafts. In transfers, donor muscles are inserted in order to allow the child fuller range of motion.
All of these treatments have provided some level of success in dealing with Erb’s Palsy; however, some of the surgical options may be expensive. As such, seeking financial compensation from the liable party may be a wise option.
Contact a Massachusetts Erb's Palsy Attorney
No parent should have to face the results of a doctor’s error without help. If a doctor has caused your baby to have Erb’s Palsy, then the Erb’s Palsy attorneys of Crowe & Mulvey, LLP may be able to help you fight for your rights according to civil law.
Contact us today by calling (617) 404-3417.