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What is Erb’s palsy?

The majority of babies in Connecticut are born with no surprise defects or birth injury. After all, it is the doctor's responsibility to catch these issues and, if possible, prevent them. Yet, complications during pregnancy or birth could lead to long-term consequences. One such injury is Erb’s palsy.

Erb's palsy stems from damage to the brachial plexus. This is a bundle of nerves near the neck that controls mobility and sensation. There are typically two injuries that can result from brachial plexus damage: Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy. While Klumpke’s palsy has a greater impact on the lower arm, Erb’s palsy affects the shoulder region.

There are four general forms of brachial plexus damage that could cause Erb’s palsy. The most minor is a neurapraxia. In this instance, the nerves are stretched, or “shocked.” Typically, infants recover from this injury in a few months. Next is a neuroma, in which the stretch is more severe and causes scarring, which can block communication between nerves. Usually, some recovery happens.

The next two injuries are more severe. A rupture happens when the nerve is torn. Newborns may be able to recover by having a “donor nerve” transplanted from another part of the body. The most serious injury is an avulsion. In this case, the nerve is torn from the spinal cord. Once again, a donor nerve may be able to restore some function.

The most common causes of Erb’s palsy are difficult deliveries with large babies. If the infant is stuck in the birth canal, the doctor may pull on the head to expedite delivery. In many cases, your doctor should have known the baby would be too large and recommended a C-section. If your baby was born with Erb’s palsy, a medical malpractice attorney may be able to help you claim damages against your doctor.

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