The birth of your child is an exciting time. Unfortunately, childbirth is not without risks. In some cases, medical negligence can lead to birth injuries.
Erb’s palsy is a birth injury that occurs in approximately one or two out of every 1,000 live births.
How does Erb’s palsy occur?
Erb’s palsy results from an injury to the brachial plexus, a cluster of nerves in the shoulder. This injury can cause a complete or partial loss of feeling and movement in the shoulder, arm and hand. Another name for the condition is Erb-Duchenne palsy.
While adults can sustain brachial plexus injuries, Erb’s palsy is most common in newborn infants as a result of the physician stretching or pulling on the baby’s head, neck or shoulders during delivery.
Risk factors for Erb’s palsy include:
- High birth weight
- Breech (feet-first) positioning
- Maternal diabetes
- Multiple births
The injury can occur in both vaginal and c-section births.
What is the treatment and prognosis for a child with Erb’s palsy?
Physical therapy is the most common treatment for Erb’s palsy. Severe cases that show no sign of improvement within a few months may require surgery to repair the damaged nerves. It may take up to two years for the nerves to recover fully.
Most infants with Erb’s palsy make a full recovery. However, for some, it can be a lifelong condition. People with Erb’s palsy may experience permanent weakness in the affected arm.
Erb’s palsy can affect your child throughout his or her life. If your baby has risk factors for Erb’s palsy, the delivering physician should consider these risks. If your baby sustains a brachial plexus injury, physical therapy can reduce the risk of long-term complications.