Erb’s Palsy

What to Know After an Erb’s Palsy Diagnosis

If your baby has been diagnosed with Erb’s palsy, these last few days have undoubtedly been full of questions and worry. What will your child’s future be like? How will you cope with the cost and stress of possible surgeries, physical therapy, and other treatment? How did this happen?

What Is Erb’s Palsy?

Erb’s palsy is one of the most common conditions resulting from injury to the brachial plexus, the bundle of nerves leading from the spine, under the collarbone, and into the arm through the armpit.

An injury to the brachial plexus can occur when the head and neck are stretched too far from the shoulder, causing different degrees of damage to the nerves—from the milder stretching, to complete rupture of the nerves, to the complete avulsion (tearing out) of the nerves’ roots from the spinal column. While accidents such as traumatic falls or motorcycle accidents can cause this injury in adults, in infants it can be caused by excessive traction (pulling) on the head during delivery by a doctor or midwife.

Erb’s palsy, depending on how severe the injury to the nerves was, can range from limited range of motion and feeling in the arm up to complete numbness or paralysis of the limb. It can also lead to the affected arm being shorter or having a ‘withered’ appearance.

What Is the Prognosis for Erb’s Palsy?

While some mild brachial plexus injuries will heal on their own, others do not and are permanently affected. Your child needs extensive evaluation and aggressive treatment to ensure the best outcome.

Treatment may include surgery to transplant healthy nerves from another part of the body into the affected area. This surgery is usually done when the baby is less than nine months old, to ensure the best chance for normal functioning of the arm.

Physical therapy, perhaps for years, also works to increase the range of motion in the injured arm.

The good news is, with aggressive treatment, many children living with Erb’s palsy will learn to adapt and lead happy lives. A number of celebrities, even professional athletes, live with Erb’s palsy. One of the most famous people living with Erb’s palsy is actor Martin Sheen, star of The West Wing.

How Did This Happen and What Can We Do?

First of all: you did nothing wrong. You are not responsible for your child’s injury.

The question remains: are the doctors or midwives who oversaw your prenatal care and delivery at fault? Did they miss the warning signs that vaginal birth would be difficult, or did they fail to follow the treatment protocols when delivery became complicated?

Liro Willer Law knows the medicine and the law that underlies birth injury cases. And above all, we care for your family like our own. Together, you and Liro WIller will make sure that your child can live the best life possible. Please contact the office directly to discuss your situation and evaluate your options moving forward.

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