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Erb's palsy overview

The birth of a child is something that Houston parents look forward to with great anticipation and excitement. Parents wait for nine months to hold their child and begin their new lives together. Most births go as planned, but some births do have complications. One birth injury that occurs is called Erb's palsy.

Erb's palsy is a type of nerve injury caused to a child during a difficult delivery. It can occur when a baby is breech and there is pressure on the baby's raised arms during delivery or if the baby's shoulders are excessively pulled during delivery. When the shoulders are pulled in such a way or injured from intense pressure, the nerves in the brachial plexus area can be damaged.

This nerve injury can cause many complications, including a physical disability and even a permanent injury. Often, it is apparent at birth when a baby has an Erb's palsy birth injury. Other signs of the injury include lacking a moro reflex (startling reflex) on the side of the body that was injured. The baby may also hold his or her arm closely to his or her side and have little spontaneous movement of the affected hand or arm. There might also be weakness in the injured hand. The baby's affected arm may also grow slower and be smaller than the healthy arm.

The good news is that this injury, if mild, can heal on its own. In some cases, though, surgery is required. There are also cases when the arm remains weak forever, and the range of motion is affected.

If such an injury is caused by medical error, then a child's' parents may have legal recourse. Though they may not want to get involved in legal matters, reaching a settlement or winning a medical malpractice case can bring much needed compensation to help cover undeserved medical expenses, allowing the parents of an injured child to focus on their new lives with their child by their side.

Source: Mayo Clinic, "Brachial plexus injury", Accessed Oct. 20, 2014

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