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Erb’s Palsy and Medical Malpractice

Erb’s palsy is one of the most common, and often avoidable, birth injuries in the United States. The Erb’s palsy lawyers at Levy Konigsberg LLP can help parents understand both the medical and legal issues involved with Erb’s palsy lawsuits.

Erb’s palsy is caused by trauma to a network of nerves in the neck and upper back that supply the arm, forearm and hand. This network of nerves is called the brachial plexus. Injury to the brachial plexus can occur when the baby’s shoulder becomes lodged behind the mother’s pubic bone during delivery, a situation known as shoulder dystocia. Shoulder dystocia is apparent when the baby’s head delivers, but the body does not follow immediately. All Erb’s Palsy cases have shown that shoulder dystocia during delivery should be considered a medical emergency and requires swift and proper treatment consisting of several maneuvers to adjust either the position of mother or baby in order to release the shoulder and complete the delivery. However, if the obstetrician improperly performs the maneuvers, as is the case in many Erb’s Palsy lawsuits, the delicate nerves of the brachial plexus can be damaged. This damage is caused when the nerves are stretched or torn due to excessive force or improper twisting of the baby’s head by the obstetrician. These are a few of the life altering effects of Erb’s palsy. Lawyers, in addition to this knowledge, need to be aware of the warning signs of dystocia and preventative action that can be employed from a medical standpoint.

There are also several prenatal courses of treatment that can reduce the risk of shoulder dystocia occurring. A properly trained obstetrician will identify shoulder dystocia risks and take steps to reduce the chances of injury during delivery. Many medical testimonies in lawsuits over Erb’s Palsy have shown that increased risk factors include babies greater than 8lbs 14oz, diabetes during the pregnancy, an overweight mother, deliveries past the estimated due date, and a long second stage of labor. In addition, delays in addressing shoulder dystocia can result in fetal distress and brain damage.

There are two types of injury involving tearing of the brachial plexus nerves: a rupture, which is a tear of the nerve at a location other than its connection with the spine and an avulsion injury where the nerve is torn from the spine. Milder forms of nerve injury, called neuropraxia, involve a localized injury to the nerve which can often resolve within the first several months of life. However, even with cases of Erb’s palsy, a lawyer should be consulted. This is because any injury to the nerves can result in a neuroma, which is a scar that is formed around a damaged nerve as it heals. Neuromas can press on nearby nerves and cause a number of symptoms.

The symptoms of Erb’s palsy cases are well known and documented by medical journals and are cited by many lawyers. With Erb’s palsy, often the affected arm will be limp and floppy at birth. The baby is often unable to move the affected arm or hand, or can only move the hand or lower arm. Reduced muscle control and the absence of sensation in the arm or hand can also be present. Facial paralysis, such as drooping of the eyelid on the affected side is often seen. Frequently babies affected by Erb’s palsy are unable to sit up without assistance or crawl without the use of therapeutic devices. The shoulder blade on the affected side may protrude from the back, a condition called “winging of the scapula”.

Babies affected by Erb’s palsy should begin physical therapy as soon as it is recommended by their pediatrician. For children who sustain long term symptoms of Erb’s palsy that do not respond fully to physical therapy, surgery on the affected nerves and muscles may provide improvement. In some cases, Erb’s palsy victims have shown that residual symptoms of weakness and reduced range of motion can be permanent, thereby affecting the ability to work and enjoy leisure activities.

The above paragraphs have described some of the devastating effects of Erb’s palsy on children and their families. Obviously, there can be devastating monetary effects associated with the medical and therapeutic treatment of Erb’s palsy, and as such, compensation is a critical component in building a case or lawsuit. Erb’s palsy involves damage to complex anatomical structures and requires extensive medical treatments, and can affect an injured child for the rest of their lives. This is why it is so important to consult with one of the Erb’s palsy lawyers at Levy Konigsberg LLP who are committed to achieving the maximum compensation for children with Erb’s palsy.

ATTENTION: If you believe that you or your loved one has been the victim of medical malpractice, you should seek legal advice of experienced medical malpractice attorneys to determine if you have a case. For a free consultation with the medical malpractice lawyers at Levy Konigsberg LLP please call our 24/7 toll-free hotline at (800) 315-3806 or submit an email inquiry.

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