Erb’s Palsy or Brachial Palsy

Our Medical Negligence Solicitors have detailed experience in dealing with Erb’s Palsy or Brachial Palsy and other birth injury compensation claims. We will focus entirely on your needs by providing vigorous expert representation to ensure that you receive maximum damages for your medical negligence claim. Our experienced lawyers are able to deal with a wide range of birth injuries including with Erb’s Palsy or Brachial Palsy.

What is it?

Erb’s palsy is also known as a brachial plexus injury or Erb-Duchenne palsy.  It is an injury a child is born with because of pulling too hard on the shoulder at the time of a difficult birth. The head fits through the birth canal but the shoulders get stuck.  Too much pulling laterally on those shoulders can lead to paralysis of the upper group of nerves near the shoulder and neck, particularly the C5 and C6 nerves—part of the brachial plexus.  The entire brachial plexus runs from C5 down to the T1 group of nerves.

In a difficult delivery in which the head has passed through but not the shoulders, the doctor gets a grip on the head and pulls laterally, stretching and possibly breaking the C5 and C6 nerve roots.  The same thing can happen in a footling breech delivery when the head is stuck and the doctor laterally moves the body in an attempt to get out the head.  The symptoms the child has depends on the amount of traction pulled on the shoulders and whether the nerves were just stretched or severed.  Infants who sustain a clavicle fracture are at higher risk of getting a brachial plexus injury.

At the time of birth, several muscles are paralyzed in a brachial plexus injury.  The paralysis can be temporary or permanent, depending on whether the nerves were just bruised, stretched or torn.  C5 is the main muscle damaged as well as the union of C5 to C6 inside the brachial plexus.  This union is known as Erb’s point and is often involved because of the way the traction is applied to the nerves.

The signs of a case of Erb’s palsy include paralysis and atrophy of the deltoid muscle the biceps muscle with loss of sensation of these areas.  The arm is hung by the side of the body and is rotated inward. The forearm is extended and pronated in a position known as the “waiter’s tip” position.  If the palsy does not resolve on its own, it will stunt the growth of the infant’s entire arm, from shoulder to fingertips. There will be circulation problems because the nerves are not functioning to modulate the blood flow to the arm.  The arm will have deficits in both large and small motor movements.  After several years, the child can develop a contracture of the elbow.

Because the arm cannot keep track and regulate its own temperature, it gets overly hot in the summer and overly cold in the winter without the patient being aware of it.  Areas of the arm affected by the paralysis get injured easily and do not heal well.  There is a greater chance of infection during an injury. The greatest loss of sensation is between the shoulder and the elbow.

The arm may be flaccid, loose or stiff and contracted. There is a treatment known as electrical stimulation and massage that really can improve the appearance of the arm when it begins to be contracted.  This physiotherapy can be done often to reduce contractures and muscle stiffness. Some people have severe cramping in the affected arm if they sleep on that side or overuse the arm.  This pain can be so severe that the patient has vomiting, nausea and fainting.  It is worse just before the arm is fully grown and resolves when the arm has fully grown.  On the other hand, some patients have no pain at all with their Erb’s palsy.   Others will simply have pain in their shoulder blade.

How can we help?

If you or a loved one suffered personal injury caused by an erb’s palsy / brachial palsy birth injury, please contact us to speak with one of our specialist solicitors who can evaluate your case to determine your legal rights and options.

We offer free consultations for advice to find out whether you have a good case, how to go about claiming and how much your compensation might be worth. We will give you clear unequivocal advice about your chances of success and the anticipated value of your claim. If after talking to us you decide not to take your compensation claim further you are under no obligation to do so and you will not be charged anything at all.

For more information or to arrange a meeting freephone 1800 303 556 or email ascally@lavellesolicitors.ie

*In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement. This statement is made in compliance with RE.8 of SI 518 of 2002.