Erbs Palsy

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Nearly two out of every thousand babies born are diagnosed with Erb's palsy. Erb's palsy is a condition that affects the nerves that provide movement and sensation to the arms, hands, and fingers. This may cause the newborn to be able to move one arm, but not the other. While most infants with Erb's palsy can recover, it is beneficial to know what causes the condition, how a baby can get it, and how to help a baby regain full functioning and feeling back into the affected limbs.

Almost all Erb's palsy conditions are caused by a brachial plexus injury. This injury occurs when the nerves in the baby's neck are stretched or torn during a difficult delivery. The nerves to the arm, hand, and fingers exit the spinal cord between the bones of the neck and travel into the arm below the collarbone. The nerves to the arm run high in the neck, while those that run to the hands and fingers exit lower in the neck, just above the chest. These nerves branch and join together near where the neck joins the shoulder in an area called the brachial plexus.

A brachial plexus trauma most generally occurs in a newborn during the birthing process. If the baby is unusually large or the birth canal is smaller than normal, the infant may become lodged. A breech position or a prolonged labor may also require more assistance from a physician to get the baby delivered. Whenever the doctor has to exert a good amount of force to help the baby out of the birth canal, there is a possibility of a brachial plexus injury. If the upper nerves are affected, Erb's Palsy can be the end result.

There are four different types of nerve traumas to the brachial plexus. Avulsion fractures are the most serious. This is when the nerve is torn from its attachment to the spinal cord. Rupture injuries happen when the nerves are torn, but not at the spinal cord. Neuroma complications result from scar tissue that forms and puts pressure on the nerve, and the most common are stretch injuries. Stretch injuries occur when the nerve is damaged, but not completely torn. Normally these injuries heal on their own, generally within three months.

In order to diagnose Erb's palsy, a doctor must perform some tests. An x-ray or an MRI may be ordered to see if there is evidence of damage to the bones or joints of the neck and shoulder. The doctor may also use an electromyogram, or EMG, and conduct studies to determine if any nerve signals are present in the upper arm muscles.

Most babies recover without surgery. Recovery from Erb's palsy may take up to a full two years, but physical therapy and continual range of motion and stretching exercises can help speed the healing process. There are times, though, when the injury does not heal on its own. At that point, the baby may require surgery. This surgery generally does not take place until the baby is at least three months old.

Since many infants brachial plexus injuries are caused by medical errors, it is imperative that the child's parents contact an attorney. Erb's palsy is not a hereditary condition, but an acquired one. Parents whose child has Erb's palsy may be eligible to receive monetary compensations to help pay for physical therapy or nerve surgery, if the child requires it. A lawyer who is experienced in birth injury settlements is most qualified to determine if parents can make feasible claims.

However, it is imperative to act quickly, since all states enforce statute of limitations laws, which only permit legal claims within specific time frames. Lawsuits are time consuming, lengthy processes, and most states require claims to be made within three years of the alleged incident. Sometimes, exceptions can be made for special cases, and statute of limitations laws may be found unconstitutional, especially if a family's child is not diagnosed until later in life. Nevertheless, if you seek compensation for your losses, you must act quickly when contacting representation. While the emotional burdens caused by these injuries may never vanish, an experienced attorney can fight for your rights, helping to alleviate financial loads.


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