Careful management of the birth process is essential to ensuring the health and wellbeing of a child. If a delivery is not properly performed, serious birth injuries can result in a lifetime of pain and suffering for a child and his or her family. Due to the complexity of the delivery process, severe neurological and other birth injuries can result when doctors, hospital staff or other medical providers fail to adhere to the applicable standard of care, fail to practice medicine in a diligent manner, and commit medical malpractice that results in injury to a child or mother.
Among the most serious forms of birth injury medical malpractice involves a neurological injury to a baby known as “Erbs Palsy”, a type of birth injury that can result in a child permanently losing the use and function of one or both of his or her arms. Unlike other birth injuries such as hypoxic or anoxic brain damage, an Erbs Palsy birth injury is generally caused by physical trauma to the child during the delivery process, rather than by the deprivation of oxygen. If you or a loved one have given birth to a child who has suffered this devastating type of neurological birth injury, contact Jesse Minc Personal Injury Law today at (718) 354-8000 to speak with a Bronx birth injury lawyer and learn whether you and your child may have a valid claim for medical malpractice.
What Is an “Erbs Palsy” Birth Injury, How Is It Caused and How Is It Diagnosed?
An “Erbs Palsy” birth injury refers to an injury that causes paralysis of one or both arms due to trauma to a portion of the brachial plexus known as the upper truck C5-C6 nerves. Paralysis to an arm caused by an “Erbs Palsy” can be partial or complete, depending upon the severity of the trauma to the affected nerves. The most common type of trauma that can cause an “Erbs Palsy” birth injury to occur involves tearing or severe contusions to the C5 nerve root, which comes out from the neck and runs down the shoulder and arm on either side of the body. Other nerves that are commonly injured in context of an “Erbs Palsy” injury include the suprascapular nerve, the musculocutaneous nerve, and the axillary nerve. In plain English, an “Erbs Palsy” is caused when the nerves running from the neck across the shoulder and down the arm are bruised or torn, resulting in disruption of the functionality of the nerve, which prohibits the portion of the arm located below the damaged area of the nerve from functioning properly.
Signs and symptoms of an “Erbs Palsy” birth injury include loss of sensation and feeling in the affected arm, as well as paralysis and atrophy of the deltoid muscles, brachialis muscles and biceps muscles of the affected arm. The affected arm will often appear to hang by the side and may be rotated medially (i.e., it may appear crooked), with the forearm extended and pronated. This birth injury causes the arm to become unraisable from the side, as all power of flexion of the elbow is destroyed, as well as the ability of the arm to properly supinate (i.e., the arm cannot properly turn over). This type of birth injury affects the development of the circulatory and sensory systems in the affected arm, and can cause problems with temperature regulation, feeling, and the ability of the affected arm to heal if it suffers an injury such as a cut or bruise.
“Erbs Palsy” birth injuries are generally caused during the delivery process, and are most often associated with a condition known as a “shoulder dystocia” that involves the baby becoming stuck in the pelvis of the mother during birth. It is important to remember that not all shoulder dystocias are the result of medical malpractice; but the manner in which the doctor delivering the baby manages this occurrence can result in medical malpractice if the doctor applies too much pressure, or “traction”, to the baby to try to free it from the dystocia, or continues with the vaginal birth when performance of a Caesarian section birth would be more appropriate under the circumstances. The obstetrician delivering the baby may pull on the baby’s head or neck in an overly forceful manner while trying to deliver the baby so as to create traction upon the brachial plexus nerves, causing the nerves to bruise or tear. An “Erbs Palsy” birth injury can also be caused by excessive pulling on the shoulders during a cephalic presentation birth (i.e., a head-first delivery) or by excess pressure on the baby’s arms during a breech birth (i.e., a feet-first delivery).
What Treatment Is Available If My Child Suffers an “Erbs Palsy” Birth Injury?
Many babies that suffer an “Erbs Palsy” birth injury will recover naturally and without the need for any serious medical intervention. However, very serious “Erbs Palsy” birth injuries often require specialist or surgical intervention to mitigate the damage caused by the injury to the nerves in question. Appropriate therapies and treatments may involve surgical repair of a damaged nerve, in addition to intense physical therapy. Specifically, nerve transplant surgery, nerve release surgery or tendon transplant surgery are some of the most common and effective types of surgical intervention for these types of birth injuries.
Generally, if a baby is born with an “Erbs Palsy” birth injury and has not recovered within their first year of life, the consequences of the injury may be permanent and irreversible. If the “Erbs Palsy” is not corrected, consequences can include severe pain and discomfort in the affected arm, permanent complete or partial paralysis of the affected arm, and painful arthritis in the joints (most prominently the shoulder and elbow) of the affected arm. Even if a child suffers only a small degree of permanent injury due to an “Erbs Palsy” caused at birth, the child will likely require a lifetime of physical therapy to mitigate the damage done to associated areas of the body such as joints and other surrounding structures.
How Can I Prove That My Child’s “Erbs Palsy” Birth Injury Was Caused by Medical Malpractice?
As with any medical malpractice case, the question of whether or not any particular birth injury was the result of actionable medical malpractice can only be answered by a doctor practicing in the same specialty as the physician who you allege committed medical malpractice and caused you harm. Jesse Minc Personal Injury Law’s network of expert birth injury lawyers will consult with its network of medical experts to review your case free of charge if you believe that you or your child have been victimized by medical malpractice that results in a birth injury such as an “Erbs Palsy”. We will review your case free of charge, and will obtain the necessary medical records and expert opinions to give you the answers that you deserve. Call us today at (718) 354-8000 to learn if you have a viable Bronx medical malpractice claim in connection with an “Erbs Palsy” birth injury.