You just came home from the hospital with your newborn baby, and you're looking forward to the next six weeks without work. Your legal secretary job can wait. During the next month and a half, you plan to rest, recuperate and get to know your baby during your maternity leave.
However, as soon you get home, your mother's instincts tell you something's wrong. Your baby - who was extra big when he was born - is having trouble moving around the crib. It seems like he can't move his arm properly, and after a few minutes of internet research, you begin to suspect that he's suffering from a condition known as Erb's palsy.
What is Erb's palsy?
Erb's palsy, also referred to as brachial palsy, is a condition that affects one out of every 500 babies. Erb's palsy is the result of a brachial plexus injury that happens during childbirth. The term brachial plexus refers to a group of nerves that connect the hands and arms to the neck and spinal cord.
Injury to the brachial plexus usually happens during the birthing process in cases where the baby's shoulder, neck or head receive excessive pressure. Sometimes, the shoulder area of a baby gets trapped in the birth canal - a complication known as shoulder dystocia. This complication is especially common in large infants. The use of vacuum devices or forceps in these situations can exacerbate the chance of a baby suffering a brachial plexus injury.
If the brachial plexus ruptures during delivery, the baby may develop signs of Erb's palsy. These symptoms include limpness or paralysis of a baby's arm. They may also include zero or limited movement of the baby's fingers and hands and sensation loss in the fingers and hands. Infants with Erb's palsy sometimes hold their limp arms and hands close to their bodies.
Is Erb's palsy my doctor's fault?
Treating physicians and obstetricians are sometimes to blame for a baby's development of Erb's palsy. For example, an at-fault health professional might have:
- Failed to identify the need for a cesarean section due to the size of the baby, or due to complications during childbirth.
- Failed to take appropriate action in the face of a shoulder dystocia birth complication.
- Used too much pressure on the neck, head or shoulder of the baby during childbirth.
Does your baby have Erb's palsy?
If you suspect your baby has Erb's palsy, it's important to seek medical treatment immediately. Specialized therapies and treatments for this birth injury - such as arm immobilization and rehabilitation exercises - have been shown to improve or eliminate certain cases of the condition. Sometimes surgery can also help a baby with Erb's palsy.
The above medical treatments and therapies can be very costly for the parents of an infant with brachial palsy. One way of seeking money to pay for this medical care involves the Pennsylvania civil court system. Parents of children with Erb's palsy may be able to hold the treating physicians and hospitals involved in your child's delivery financially responsible.