Pennsylvania Brachial Plexus Injuries/Erb’s Palsy Attorneys
Brachial Plexus Injuries/Erb’s Palsy
Cherry Injury Law of Pennsylvania would like to offer parents information on a common type of preventable birth injury called brachial plexus injury. It is also commonly known as Erb’s Palsy. The condition, which is a form of cerebral palsy, can be caused during delivery when a baby’s shoulder becomes trapped behind its mother’s pelvic bone. If a doctor continues to attempt a vaginal delivery, stretching, rupture or avulsion of this delicate nervous array may result in long term or permanent damage.
The brachial plexus is the technical term for the network of nerves that send signals from the spinal cord out to the shoulder, arm and hand. Damage to these nerves may result in paralysis, lack of muscle control and loss of sensation in the affected arm, hand and/or shoulder. While many cases of brachial plexus injury due to stretching of the nerves resolve themselves within six months to a year, torn nerves may require surgery to repair. Avulsion, a condition in which the nerves are pulled away from the spine, may require muscle transfer to repair or may never completely heal.
Erb’s Palsy specifically refers to the type of brachial plexus injury that occurs in the back of an infant’s neck, along the fifth and sixth cervical roots. Another kind of palsy in the brachial plexus, Klumpke’s Palsy, involves damage to the nerve roots in the lower plexus. Children suffering from Klumpke’s Palsy experience numbness or the lack of use of their hands and wrists.
Although these injuries can occur after birth for different reasons, many are the result of a mishandled delivery. It is estimated that one or two out of every 1,000 newborns suffer a brachial plexus injury because their shoulders were stuck during vaginal delivery.
Damage to the brachial plexus is avoidable through careful monitoring of a woman’s pregnancy. Babies that grow too large, often due to gestational or maternal diabetes, require evaluation before delivery. If an infant is found to be large, it should be delivered via Cesarean section in order to avoid shoulder entrapment. These are some other indicators that a C-section is favorable:
- Baby weighs 8 1/2 pounds or more
- Mother experienced “stuck shoulders” with previous deliveries
- Mother has small or unusually shaped pelvis
- Mother is experiencing unusually long labor
- Baby is positioned incorrectly in the birth canal
- Mother was given medications to induce or speed up labor
There are standard obstetric maneuvers that delivery room personnel should know for managing unexpected occurrences of stuck shoulders. These involve repositioning the mother onto all fours, using lower abdominal pressure to rotate the baby into a better position, vacuum extraction and other emergency measures. Cherry Injury Law urges all Pennsylvania parents to educate themselves about the risk factors for brachial plexus injuries and Erb’s Palsy and to learn how doctors can avoid this all too common birth injury.
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