Improper delivery techniques or the failure to properly measure the size of a full-term fetus are common causes for injuries to a child’s shoulder and arm during childbirth. The pressure put upon the child’s neck and shoulder by a physician, forceps or vacuum extractor can quickly damage the delicate nerves that control the arm. This is referred to as a brachial plexus injury that can leave the child with nerve damage and a condition called Erb’s Palsy.
Causes Of Birthing Brachial Plexus And Erb’s Palsy
Brachial is a term that is used to refer to the arm and Plexus is used when discussing a network of nerves. The brachial plexus is the nerves that control the use of the shoulder, arm, elbow, wrist and hand muscles. Brachial plexus injuries can happen from many different types of injuries throughout life, however, in birthing it is often due to poor techniques or preparation by the delivering doctor.
When a child is being delivered, there are several factors that can contribute to a brachial plexus injury. The babies weight and size needs to be evaluated by the doctor to ensure that the birth canal is wide enough to accommodate the child. Also, breech deliveries and prolonged labor can factor into higher risk for brachial plexus injuries.
The most common cause of brachial plexus injuries and Erb’s Palsy is shoulder dystocia. When the shoulder of the baby becomes wedged behind the pelvic bone of the mother, the child must be carefully dislodged. When excess force is used to pull the head down the birth canal, the neck and shoulder can be stretched, causing a brachial plexus injury. The combination of the shoulder wedge and excess force is the cause of most of these injuries.
Erb’s Palsy Disabilities
When a severe brachial plexus injury occurs, it may result in Erb’s Palsy. This particular form of the injury refers to loss of function of both the upper and lower arm. When a child is delivered and the trauma of the birth has caused Erb’s Palsy, the arm or arms affected will often be bent at the elbow and held against the body. The child may have limited grip and have trouble moving the arms affected. Some children recover from the injury in several months, however, others are not as lucky and have permanent disabilities including:
- Paralysis. Children with Erb’s Palsy may have partial or full paralysis of the affected arms. If the root of the nerve is completely separated from the spinal cord, they may have no function in the arm at all.
- Weakness. Nerves that are damaged can cause weakness in the arm, wrist and hands. This can also cause atrophy over time.
- Muscle contractions. Abnormal muscle contractions can occur, causing a tightening of the muscles that may be permanent.
These disabilities can make life difficult for the child and cause them pain and discomfort for the rest of their lives. For the family, it can mean excessive medical costs for specialized treatments and care. When these injuries are due to the error of the delivering physician or midwife, it only reasonable that they compensate the family and child for the pain, suffering and large medical costs that they must bare.
Seeking Legal Action For Brachial Plexus Injuries And Erb’s Palsy
We understand how frightening it can be to learn your child has been injured during their birth. At Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, we have worked with many families who have suffered with their child as they face an unknown future and possible disabilities due to a medical error. Our team works with medical experts and counselors to determine the full extent of medical care that will be needed for our clients that have children that have suffered brachial plexus injuries or Erb’s Palsy. If your child was injured during birth, please call us for a free consultation to discuss the possibility of obtaining compensation to help with your child’s medical treatment and care.
Here are some useful resources for families facing a situation with a child who has Erb’s palsy or a shoulder injury at birth:
Related materials from Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers:
- Can shoulder injuries (known as brachial plexus injuries or Erb’s Palsy) sustained during delivery be prevented?