What Are the Common Causes of Brachial Plexus Palsy or Erb’s Palsy?

Brachial plexus palsy (Erb’s palsy) typically occurs during birth when the nerves of the infant’s neck are stretched to one side during delivery. This has the potential to cause temporary or permanent nerve damage. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that run down the spine and give sensation to the nerves in the arm.

According to the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), these nerves also provide movement and feeling to the muscles of the shoulders, elbows, wrists and hands. A brachial plexus injury or brachial plexus palsy can be identified by the distinct symptom of paralysis. When such paralysis impacts voluntary movement of the upper arm and rotation in the lower arm, it is considered brachial plexus palsy.

What Causes Brachial Plexus Palsy (Erb’s Palsy)?

There are a number of reasons why these types of injuries may occur. Here are some of the most common causes of brachial plexus injuries:

Damage during birth: Damage to nerves of the brachial plexus during childbirth is the one of the main causes of brachial plexus injuries or Erb’s palsy. There are many ways in which this may happen during childbirth. Essentially, the problem occurs when the baby’s head and arm or shoulder are stretched apart. The nerves of the brachial plexus run from the spine to the neck and then to the shoulder and down the arm. Therefore, pulling or stretching the child’s body in such a manner injures the nerves of the brachial plexus. The more this area is stretched, the greater the damage is likely to be. The nerves can actually tear and in worst cases, be ripped away from the spinal cord.

Complications of a prolonged labor: Sometimes, when the doctor or other medical professional attempt to manipulate the baby to get him or her out of the birth canal, the nerves of the brachial plexus can become stretched or damaged. This often happens during prolonged labor when the baby and mother are in distress and medical professionals are trying to get the baby out.

For example, while manipulating the baby, the head and neck may get pulled to the side as the shoulders are delivered from the birth canal. Or, the baby’s head may get pulled while the shoulders are still stuck in the birth canal. In some cases, the manner in which a medical professional manages birth-assistive tools such as forceps or vacuum extractor can also end up stretching the nerves of the brachial plexus.

Larger baby: When an infant is larger than average during birth, it can be challenging to deliver the child through the birth canal. Sometimes, the shoulders can become stuck (shoulder dystocia) requiring urgent intervention. This may also lead to the shoulder, head or arm being pulled in such a way that the nerves get damaged. If the child is larger than average, the medical provider should be able to detect it in the final weeks of pregnancy. This would be a good time to have a conversation about whether a Cesarean section (C-section) should be done to avoid a difficult birth, which may lead to brachial plexus palsy injuries (also known as Erb’s palsy) and other complications.

Breech birth: This is another major risk factor for brachial plexus palsy. A breech birth occurs when the baby’s feet emerge through the birth canal first. In a normal vaginal birth, the head comes out first. Brachial plexus palsy (Erb’s palsy) can occur as the doctor attempts to pull the baby’s feet out first and ends up pulling the child’s arms over his or her head. This can put significant stress on the nerves of the brachial plexus and cause serious damage. A breech position should also be detected prior to labor and delivery and may make the case for a C-section.

Contacting an Experienced Lawyer

If your child has brachial plexus palsy (Erb’s palsy), he or she 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 (appeals) 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. Also, 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 cerebral palsy or 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

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/or 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

Please visit us at: www.WORK4YOULAW.com

Leave a Reply