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Understanding Erb's Palsy Birth Injuries

Erb's palsy, a type of brachial plexus palsy, is named after William Erb, one of the first physicians to describe the condition. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, Erb's palsy affects the brachial plexus, a nerve network located close to the neck. The brachial plexus leads to the arm's nerves, providing feeling and movement for the arm, hand and fingers. Damage typically causes the following problems:

  • General weakness
  • Loss of feeling
  • Partial or total paralysis of the affected arm

Erb's palsy affects around one in every 1,000 newborns. It is most often caused by difficult deliveries during which the infant's head is forcefully stretched to the side. This can occur when a doctor pulls too hard on the baby's head or arms, or when an excessive amount of strain is put on the infant's shoulders during a breech delivery.

Occasionally, damage to the brachial plexus may heal on its own. In other cases, it can be repaired through surgery. Most often, however, once the damage has occurred, the child suffers from mild to severe long-term weakness on the affected side of their body. In many cases, normal control can eventually be regained through extensive physical therapy.

While Erb's palsy results from damage to the upper brachial plexus nerves, total or "global" brachial plexus palsy can occur if both the lower and upper nerves are damaged. If this occurs, the result is much more serious than Erb's palsy.

Birth injuries and conditions such as Erb's palsy, which often result from errors during delivery, may be an indication of medical malpractice. To explore your legal options for holding negligent physicians accountable, contact an attorney at Jeffrey M. Goldberg Law Offices in Chicago.

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