Brachial plexus palsy or Erb’s palsy is a condition that is caused by damage during birth to nerves that control the shoulder and the arm. These are essentially a network of nerves of the brachial plexus, which connects the spinal cord to the shoulders, arms and hands, providing movement, control and sensation. Depending on the part of the network of nerves that is affected, the signs of injury will likely be seen in those areas.
Symptoms Begin Right Away
The signs and symptoms of brachial plexus palsy or Erb’s palsy vary depending on the extent of damage to the nerves. Therefore, the greater the injury, the more severe the symptoms, which may begin soon after birth. The medical team should be able to spot the signs of a brachial plexus injury right after the child is born, simply by observing his or her movements. Often, a standard reflex test with a routine physical exam may help doctors make a quick diagnosis of brachial plexus palsy.
Here are the four common symptoms of brachial plexus palsy (Erb’s palsy) that doctors and the medical team should look out for after the baby is born, especially if the labor was prolonged or if the obstetrician had a difficult time delivering the baby.
1. Lack of Proper Movement
This is one of the first signs or symptoms a doctor or a parent may spot in the infant. There is likely to be lack of movement or weakness in the arm that has been injured. Newborns have limited movement, but most infants can be seen moving their arms freely right after birth. One telling sign of Erb’s palsy is if the child is able to move one arm, but not the other. This lack of movement may also vary in severity depending on the seriousness of the injury.
2. Poor Reflexes
Babies are born with certain reflexes and when they don’t appear to have those soon after birth that may indicate they have brachial plexus palsy. One common test that is used is the “Moro reflex test” or the “startle test.” This is done by holding the baby’s head and shoulders off a mat with the arms held in flexion on the chest. The person doing the test then suddenly lets the head and shoulders drop back a few inches while releasing the arms. When that happens, the arms should fully abduct and extend and then return toward the midline with hand open and the thumb and the index finger forming a “C” shape. An asymmetric Moro is often seen with a brachial plexus injury. Brachial plexus palsy is usually on the side of the poorly abducted arm.
3. Abnormal Arm Positioning
In newborns, another common sign of brachial plexus palsy is an abnormal positioning of the arm that has been affected. For example, when a child has suffered a brachial plexus injury, the signs may be a stiff arm that is rotated inward with the wrist fully bent and fingers extended. Any placement of the arm that seems abnormal or unnatural may indicate brachial plexus palsy. In addition, a brachial plexus injury may also affect a child’s ability to grip objects. Newborns typically are able to grasp an object and hold on pretty tightly. In children with brachial plexus palsy (Erb’s palsy), there is a noticeably weaker grip or no grip in the affected hand.
4. Loss of Sensation
This is one of the most common signs of brachial plexus palsy (Erb’s palsy) in a newborn because the nerves of the brachial plexus provide sensation in the arm. So, a child who has suffered a birth injury may experience loss of sensation in the affected arm and paralysis and atrophy of the deltoid, biceps and brachialis muscles. In affected children, the arm usually hangs by the side and the forearm is extended and pronated.
Contacting an Experienced Lawyer
When brachial plexus palsy, shoulder dystocia or Erb’s palsy occurs because of the doctor or medical team’s negligence (carelessness), your child may be able to receive compensation that may help pay for medical expenses, lost income, cost of therapy, future treatments, permanent injuries, disabilities, past and future pain and suffering, 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 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.
For over 49 years, our skilled accident attorneys have established a proven track record of helping injured victims. One of our clients obtained a verdict for $43,940,000 and another of our clients got a verdict for $23,500,000, both in medical malpractice cases. We have seen many cases where New York City Health and Hospital Corporation facilities deliver babies who are born with brachial plexus palsy (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
• 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
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