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Five Common Questions about Erb’s Palsy

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It’s hard for many of us to even think about having limited or no use of our arms. However, for many individuals who have suffered brachial plexus injuries, not having use of one’s arms is just a reality. Brachial plexus injuries or Erb’s palsy may occur due to a number of reasons. They most commonly occur during or shortly after a baby is born. The impact of a brachial plexus injury on a child’s life is significant. It also affects the child’s parents and family members.

If your child has suffered Erb’s palsy or a brachial plexus injury during or before birth, here are some of the most common questions you may have:

What is Erb’s palsy or brachial plexus injury?

The brachial plexus is essentially a network of nerves that runs from the spine to the shoulder down to one’s arm and hand. This system conducts signals from the brain, controlling movement, sensation and function from the shoulders to the fingertips. According to the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) brachial plexus injury refers to damage to the nerves of the brachial plexus that results in trauma or inflammation. When this occurs, signals from the brain may be interrupted and as a result sensory functions may also be affected. Erb’s palsy may significantly affect a person’s mobility, control and function on the affected side.

Why do brachial plexus injuries occur during labor and delivery?

These types of birth injuries are fairly common during a prolonged labor or difficult childbirth. When the process of labor and delivery becomes lengthy and more complex, the risk of birth injury goes up. Here are just a few examples of complications during childbirth that may lead to Erb’s palsy or a brachial plexus injury:

• Breech position: This is when the child comes out feet-first as opposed to head-first. This puts a lot of pressure on the child’s shoulders and upper body, which may cause injuries to the nerves of the brachial plexus.
• Large size: When the infant is larger than normal (macrosomia), there is a higher risk of a difficult labor and delivery. A larger infant may become stuck in the birth canal.
• Improper use of birth-assistive tools: When a doctor uses excessive force and does not properly utilize birth-assistive tools such as forceps or vacuum extractors, the child may suffer serious injuries, including brachial plexus injuries.

How do I know if my child has suffered a brachial plexus injury?

Some of the most common symptoms to look out for if you suspect that your child has suffered a brachial plexus injury include limited mobility on the affected side and weakness or numbness in the affected arm and hand. Your child may also experience neck pain, impaired reflexes, or pain. The extent of symptoms will depend on the severity of the injury. Here are some of the symptoms that parents should monitor:

• Weakness in one arm
• Holding one arm against the body with a bent elbow
• Numbness in arm or hand
• The affected arm is paralyzed
• Pain on the affected side
• Lack of grip strength in the affected hand

Will my child be permanently disabled by these injuries?

Your child may suffer long-term or lifelong disabilities. Often the injury will be noticeable and affect functionality as well. Whether or not your child heals fully will often depend on other health factors and conditions, and how your child responds to treatments and therapies. In some cases, a brachial plexus injury may cause the affected arm to grow and develop at a slower pace than the other. The difference in growth may be visible as your child gets older. Some of the common treatments for Erb’s palsy or brachial plexus injuries include surgery, medications, physical therapy and occupational therapy.

Can brachial plexus injuries be prevented?

As birth injury attorneys who have represented families of children who have suffered Erb’s palsy at birth, we know that these serious birth injuries are preventable. There are a number of prevention strategies that may help reduce the risk of brachial plexus injuries such as carefully monitoring the mother and child during pregnancy and during the stages of labor and delivery. Doctors should be able to recognize risk factors that may lead to prolonged labor such as breech position or a larger baby. Doctors should also order a Cesarean section in high-risk cases or when there are signs of risks and complications for vaginal birth.

Contacting an Experienced Lawyer

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 verdict that was reduced by the appeals court to $1,846,000 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.

We have seen many cases where New York City Health and Hospital Corporation hospitals deliver babies who are born with cerebral palsy or erb’s palsy stemming from negligence (carelessness) and/or medical malpractice in the labor and delivery etc. of the children. The following list identifies some of these hospitals (operated by New York City Health and Hospital Corporation):

• Jacobi Hospital aka Bronx Municipal 1400 Pelham Parkway South Bronx, New York 10461 718-918-5000
• Lincoln Hospital 234 East 149th Street Bronx, New York 10451 718-579-5000
• North Central Bronx Hospital 3424 Kossuth Avenue Bronx, New York 10467 718-519-5000
• Coney Island Hospital 2601 Ocean Parkway Brooklyn, New York 11235 718-616-3000
• Kings County Hospital 451 Clarkson Avenue Brooklyn, New York 11203 718-245-3131 BIGGEST HOSPITAL IN THE WORLD
• Woodhull Hospital 760 Broadway Brooklyn, New York 11206 718-963-8000
• Bellevue Hospital 462 First Avenue New York, New York 10016 212-562-5555
• Harlem Hospital 506 Lenox Avenue New York, New York 10037 212-939-1000
• Metropolitan Hospital 1901 First Avenue New York, New York 10029 212-423-6262
• Elmhurst Hospital 79-01 Broadway Elmhurst, New York 11373 718-334-4000
• Queens Hospital Center 82-68 164th Street Jamaica, New York 11432 718-883-3000

Please contact us TOLL FREE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-WORK-4-YOU (1-800-967-5496). WE CAN EVEN COME TO YOU. There is no attorneys’ fee unless we recover money for you. We can also help with personal injury and medical malpractice cases in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida. If you have been seriously injured in any of the 50 U.S. states, please call us and we will try to help you with your case.

Other TOLL FREE phone numbers for us are:

1-800-RADIO-LAW, 1-888-WYPADEK, OR 1-800-LAS-LEYES

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