The word “palsy,” in the context of birth injuries, refers to a partial or full paralysis. When discussing birth injuries, particularly brachial plexus injuries, Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy are two types of injuries that may occur. Both Erb’s and Klumpke’s palsy involve the brachial plexus, which is a network of nerves that begin at the spinal cord in the neck and control the movement of an individual’s hand, wrist, elbow and shoulder. These nerves are delicate especially in a newborn baby. So, if there is any type of trauma during a difficult delivery, the nerves of the brachial plexus can get stretched and result in a birth injury that may affect the child for the rest of his or her life.
Erb’s Versus Klumpke’s Palsy
Both Erb’s and Klumpke’s palsy occur as a result of an injury to the brachial plexus during labor and delivery. Erb’s palsy is also known as Erb-Duchenne palsy and is a nerve disorder that occurs due to an injury during birth. The disorder affects the nerves near the neck and causes weakness and loss of motion in the arm. The condition got its name from William Erb, the first doctor to describe it in detail. Erb’s palsy affects about one or two out of every 1,000 children born.
Erb’s palsy is caused by a stretching of the brachial plexus nerves during childbirth. This happens when the head and shoulder are moving in opposite directions. And that may occur in a number of different scenarios such as when the child’s head and neck are pulled toward the side, when the baby’s shoulders are stretched during a head-first delivery and when increased pressure is put on the baby’s arms during a breech or feet-first delivery.
There are a few risk factors that increase the child’s risk of developing Erb’s palsy. Usually, larger babies have a greater risk of such birth injuries. Other risk factors include, but are not limited to, breech delivery, prolonged labor, maternal obesity, gestational diabetes, etc.
While both, Klumpke’s palsy and Erb’s palsy can be caused during a difficult labor and delivery, they are still two different injuries. Klumpke’s palsy affects the lower brachial plexus nerves while Erb’s palsy affects the nerves of the upper brachial plexus. Klumpke’s palsy affects the lower two of the five nerves of the brachial plexus causing paralysis in the forearm and the hand. The wrist flexors may also be affected. Klumpke’s palsy is believed to be a rarer condition than Erb’s palsy.
A child with Klumpke’s palsy is typically unable to move his or her forearm, hand or wrist flexors. With Klumpke’s palsy, the child will appear to have a claw-like hand. Klumpke’s palsy and Erb’s palsy occur under a similar condition, commonly labeled as shoulder dystocia, when a child is delivered vaginally and the shoulder gets stuck on the mother’s pubic bone. Both Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy may also happen when the child is too big for the birth canal causing the child’s head to turn abnormally from his or her shoulder.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
Brachial plexus injuries can be prevented by taking certain steps such as fetal monitoring, careful birth delivery, keeping track of the mother’s health, ordering a C-section, etc. The costs associated with raising a child who is affected by birth injuries such as Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy are enormous. The nature and extent of your expenses will usually depend on the severity of the child’s condition. Children who have severe motion impairment will need a lot more therapy and rehabilitation. Some of the typical expenses parents of children with Erb’s palsy and Klumpke’s palsy face include, but are not limited to, ongoing medical bills (including physical and occupational therapy costs), wages and benefits lost by a parent and future loss of income for the affected child, and cost of psychological services, etc.
The experienced New York personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options, and also fight hard to recover just compensation for you. One of our clients secured a $2,850,000 Erb’s palsy verdict that was reduced by the appeals court to $1,850,000 because the verdict was so large. This was the highest amount upheld by the appellate courts for many, many years. In addition we recovered $1,400,000 for a newborn who lost motion in the arm during birth due to doctors applying incorrect force on the baby’s head.
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