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Medical Malpractice Newsletter

Erb's Palsy and Medical Malpractice

Erb’s Palsy is a birth complication resulting from an infant’s shoulder bone becoming trapped behind the mother’s pubic bone during birth. This complication, also known as shoulder dystocia, causes intense pressure on the nerves in the infant’s arm. As such, the infant may suffer from a condition called Erb’s Palsy, marked by a temporarily or permanent limp or paralyzed arm.

Although this condition occurs in approximately one to two babies out of every 1,000 births in the United States, Erb’s Palsy may be prevented with diligent efforts on the part of physician.

Symptoms of Erb’s Palsy

An infant with Erb’s Palsy may exhibit symptoms including:

  • No muscle control in the arm or hand
  • No feeling in the arm or hand
  • Slight control of the wrist and hand
  • No control of shoulder or elbow muscles

Consequences of Erb’s Palsy

Most infants that suffer from Erb’s Palsy have a mild case and will recover fully in three to four months. A more grave Erb’s Palsy injury can take between 18 to 24 months to recover. With physical therapy, electrical stimulation and additional treatments, the prognosis for an infant with Erb’s Palsy is good. However, 1/5 of Erb’s Palsy cases will suffer permanent residual paralysis.

Causes of Erb’s Palsy

As Erb’s Palsy can often be prevented, medical malpractice claims may be available in certain situations where the physician failed to act as a reasonable physician in his position would have. Circumstances that may lead to an Erb’s Palsy medical malpractice claim may include failure to:

  • Perform a Caesarian section
  • Correctly approximate the infant’s weight prior to delivery
  • Diagnose and treat gestational diabetes
  • Inform mother of the inherent risks of vaginal delivery of a large infant
  • Execute proper delivery techniques in managing shoulder dystocia
  • Apply customary force (or applying excessive) force during delivery
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