“Mrs. Fitzgerald, you can relax: your baby has Erb’s palsy.”
What?! Why on earth would you be relieved if your doctor says your baby has Erb’s palsy? Isn’t it like cerebral palsy?
Well, no, and that’s why he thinks you should be glad. Understanding the difference will convince you that he hasn’t gone off the deep end.
Cerebral Palsy and Erb’s Palsy
Cerebral palsy results from injury to or abnormalities of the brain. It affects brain and nervous system functions, such as movement, learning, seeing, hearing, and thinking. Although it will never get worse than it is at birth (with proper treatment), it will not improve, either. Physical and speech therapy help children to cope with their symptoms.
Erb’s palsy, on the other hand, is usually a temporary condition caused by injury to one or more of the five large nerves that make up the brachial plexus. These nerves run from the spinal cord to the arm, supplying the arm with feeling and the ability to move. One or two babies in a thousand will suffer a brachial nerve injury.
The result of a brachial plexus injury is weakness or paralysis of the arm. According to Brain and Spinal Cord.org, most instances of Erb’s palsy occur from the nerve being stretched; they generally heal within 6 to 12 months after birth. Fewer than 10 percent of babies born with brachial plexus injuries have permanent paralysis or impairment.
Types of Erb’s Palsy
The nerve damage of Erb’s palsy can range from bruising to tearing, resulting in various degrees of impairment. The following conditions indicate the level of impairment:
- brachial plexus injury—only the upper arm is affected
- Erb’s paralysis—both the upper and lower arm are affected
- Klumpke paralysis—the hand is affected; sometimes the opposite eyelid droops
How the Nerve Damage Occurs
There are several ways the brachial nerves can be stretched and damaged, including the following:
- The baby’s head and neck are pulled to the side when the shoulders are delivered.
- As the baby is being born head first, the shoulders are pulled forcefully.
- The baby is born feet first (a breech birth), with arms raised, and there is excess pressure on the shoulders.
- The baby’s head has delivered normally, but one shoulder gets stuck under the mother’s pelvic bone; larger-than-average babies are at higher risk for this occurrence.
If you are heartbroken because your baby has been born with cerebral palsy or Erb’s palsy, you may be entitled to financial compensation. Call the Kentucky birth injury attorneys at Gray and White Law at 502-210-8942 or toll free at 888-450-4456 to set up a FREE, no-obligation consultation.