Erb’s palsy, also known as brachial plexus injury (BPI), is a type of birth injury that can frighten parents. Affecting approximately two out of every 1,000 babies, the infant’s arm falls limply from the shoulder due to a temporary or permanent weakness or paralysis.
While some babies recover in a few months with therapy and regular follow-up visits to the physician, others may require more extensive treatment including surgery. Permanent injuries can significantly affect a child’s entire future, hindering their ability to work or perform other activities. The money needed for short-term and long-term care can add up quickly.
If the parents suspect that a medical error was involved, legal action can be taken to ease the financial burden and help ensure the family receives compensation for damages and future earnings.
When a physician fails to properly monitor expectant mothers, they can miss serious potential birth complications. Other risk factors include:
- Unusually large babies
- Overweight mothers
- Gestational diabetes during pregnancy
- Abnormal maternal pelvic structure
- Deliveries past the estimated due date
These injuries are caused by improper maneuvers when a baby’s shoulder becomes stuck typically on the mother’s public bone. There are well-documented maneuvers to use to relieve that condition and allow the baby to be delivered safely. The most serious injuries including the complete rupture of nerve roots in the cervical spine area are the result of the improper use of downward traction of the baby’s head and neck before obtaining a release of the shoulder.
Treatment for Erb’s Palsy
There are no published, randomized, controlled studies addressing treatment for BPI, according to research available in the National Institute of Health’s National Library of Medicine conducted by Michael Chater, Peter Camfield, MD FRCPC, and Carol Camfield, MD FRCPC.
Immobilization of the affected limb is usually recommended during rest in the first week after birth followed by active and passive ranges of motion exercises.
A multidisciplinary medical team can usually provide the best treatment. According to the research, surgical exploration may lead to a better outcome, but controlled trials are needed to verify this. Based on the case studies which are available, about two-thirds of patients undergoing surgical exploration show improvement.
Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit
The level of care required for treating Erb’s palsy can lead to high medical bills and most importantly, permanent injury to the child. Surgeries, medical appointments and extensive physical therapy are costly. Parents who wonder if a medical mistake could have caused their child’s birth injury should not hesitate to contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney.
If the doctor or another medical practitioner failed to adhere to a reasonable standard of care, it could indicate an incident of medical malpractice. Your lawyer can help you decide if you have a case and will do so on a contingency basis, that is, at no upfront cost to you.