What Is Erb's Palsy?
Erb's Palsy or brachial plexus palsy is an injury at birth to a baby's arm. It can be caused by medical malpractice by the doctors, nurses, and midwives during delivery. Erb's palsy can be a severe and permanent paralysis. The ability to the use arm normally can be affected for life. As a a parent whose child has been diagnosed with Erb's Palsy, you may have questions as to how this happened and what to do now. Will it go away? What limitations will be there on the use of the arm? Will it affect my child's ability to work or take of himself or herself? Can I bring a lawsuit for this? What money damages are available?
How Does Erb's Palsy (Brachial Plexus Palsy) Happen?
During delivery, a baby has to make small turns in the birth canal to be born. These are natural movements that all babies have to go through. When the baby's head comes out, the shoulders will naturally rotate so that the entire body will come out. However, in some births, the head comes out but the body does. This is because one of the baby's shoulders gets stuck on the mom's pubic bone. When this happens, the medical term is called shoulder dystocia. Shoulder dystocia is an obstetrical emergency in which gentle down traction (pressure) applied by the doctor or midwife does not lead to the delivery and additional maneuvers are required to deliver the baby without injury.
If there is a should dystocia (stuck shoulder), the doctor or midwife are trained to remove their hands from the baby's head. Continued pulling on the baby's head should never be used as it can cause injury to the arm due to excessive traction on the nerves of the baby's neck. Instead, the following techniques should be used:
- McRoberts Maneuver-Mom should be instructed to place her knees toward the chest to help open up the pubic outlet to make more room for the baby to come out safely
- Suprapubic pressure-The nurse will apply pressure to the pubic bone to also help with opening up the area
- Posterior arm sweep-The doctor will try to move the opposite are across the baby's body to free up the stuck shoulder
- All 4's position-The mom is placed on all 4's to try to deliver
- Emergency c-section if all else fails
While most stuck babies come out fine, when the doctor or midwife does not use the standard of care techniques mentioned above and instead, pulls on the baby's head too hard that's when injury occurs. The excessive use of force on the head will stretch the nerves of the neck and rip the fibers inside the nerves to the point until paralysis occurs. The nerves of the neck are attached to the top of the spinal cord. Nerves are like wires that provide the power to the arm, wrist and hand. That is why when those nerves are damaged, the arm is impacted.
The two types of nerve injuries from excessive force are
- Stretch-the nerves are not pulled out of the spinal cord but the fibers inside the nerve are torn apart
- Avulsion-the nerves are pulled out of the spinal cord (this is the most severe)
Are There Certain Factors Which Make Erb's Palsy More Likely (Risk Factors)?
If a mom has gestational diabetes (high sugar during pregnancy) it can lead to a bigger baby. The bigger a baby is, the harder it can be for the baby to delivered without getting stuck. If a baby is over 4,000 grams (8 pounds, 13 ounces), the baby will have macrosomia (too big). If certain cases, a c-section may be the better way to deliver.
Many women have induced labor. This is done by the use of Pitocin, a drug that increases contractions. In some cases, Pitocin is too strong and causes the baby to be born too fast. Rather than being able to make the natural movements discusses above, the baby gets stuck.
Can A Medical Malpractice Lawsuit Be Brought For Erb's Palsy in Baltimore?
If the doctor or midwife does not deliver a stuck baby in the appropriate way, they can be sued for medical malpractice. For a lawsuit to be filed, medical experts in the field of obstetrics and gynecology will have to be hired to review the medical records. The laws of Baltimore and Maryland require that a medical doctor be willing to testify in court that:
- The delivering doctor or midwife breached the medical standards of care.
- The breach of standards caused Erb's Palsy.
- The injury is permanent.
A lawsuit can be brought up until the child's 21st birthday. Call Frank Spector Law even if your child is a teenager.
At Frank Spector Law, I over 30 years of experience in handling cases. I probably have handled more Erb's Palsy cases than most lawyers in Maryland. I recovered millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements. In Baltimore City, I was able to win a jury verdict in an Erb's Palsy for $1.5 million dollars. For examples of other settlements and verdict, please click https://www.frankspectorlaw.com/case-results
Let me put my experience to work for you.
If a baby has Erb's Palsy it can be a lifelong injury. Sometimes the arm is completely dead has no function at all, In other cases, the arm may have limited use.
Erb's Palsy can limit a person's ability to:
- Carry objects
- Open doors
- Drive a car
- Turn doorknobs
- Tie shoes
- Button clothes
- Perform jobs that require the use of 2 arms or require heavy lifting .
There will a need for occupational and physical therapy to help maximize the arm's use. In severe cases, surgery to repair the nerves will be required. This comes at great cost.
Money damages can be obtained for loss of earning potential.
Non-economic damages for pain, suffering, humiliation and embarrassment are also available.
*Each case is different. Past success does not guarantee future results.