Brachial Plexus and Erb's Palsy

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Modified on 2009/10/14 21:48 by admin
There is nothing more beautiful than the site of a mother holding her newborn baby. Unfortunately, there are things that can go wrong during the time between the beginning of labor and delivery.

Specifically, during a difficult or breech delivery, prolonged labor, or when a mother has maternal diabetes or is carrying a large baby, a network of nerves known as the brachial plexus may suffer permanent damage and result in a birth injury to the newborn child.

The brachial plexus, located in the neck, conducts signals from the spine to the shoulder, arm, and hand. When a baby's shoulders are pulled with unnecessary force or become impacted on the mother’s pelvis or spine during delivery, damage to the brachial plexus may result.

There are four types of injuries that can occur to the brachial plexus during delivery: Avulsion, Rupture, Neuroma and Stretch injuries. Avulsion is the most severe, while stretch injuries usually require no surgery and heal on their own.

Erb-Duchenne (Erb's) palsy refers to paralysis of the upper brachial plexus. Dejerine-Klumpke (Klumpke's) palsy refers to paralysis of the lower brachial plexus. According to the American Academy of Orthopeadic Surgeons, Erb’s Palsy occurs in .1 to.2 percent of all births, while it is rare to have a true case of Klumpke’s palsy, as the condition usually occurs in a breech delivery with the baby’s arm above its head.

Erb’s palsy can usually be diagnosed when a newborn has one arm hanging straight at its side and cannot move the arm despite prodding from hospital staff.

Symptoms of Erb's and Klumpke's Palsy include, but may not be limited to, paralysis, atrophy and limpness of the arm, hand or wrist. Loss of sensation may also result. Over time, the damaged arm may grow smaller than the other.

While no parent wants to see a child injured during birth, it is important to understand the treatments for Erb’s and Klumpke’s Palsy. Treatments include physical therapy, nerve surgery and tendon transfer. It is extremely important for parents, grandparents or others caring for the baby to follow the doctor’s instructions and take an active role in rehabilitation – being sure to do prescribed exercises with the child every day.

And if the injured arm does turn out grow smaller than the uninjured, family members should remember that children are able to adapt better than most adults. So encourage the child to build his or her self esteem; do not mention physical limitations. Focus on what he or she can do.


Once you've had a chance to ask any legal questions via our free ask an attorney service you might have, you might also want to browse the links below to find more information on Erb's Palsy and support for parents and families:

- Erb's Palsy and Brachial Plexus Palsy Foundation (BPPF)
- Brachial Plexus Injury Information from Cincinnati Childrens'

If you have questions about Erb's Palsy in regards to a personal injury claim, feel free to take advantage of our free ask a lawyer service to ask any legal questions you need answers to.


See Also

  1. Birth Injuries
  2. Doctors
  3. Hospitals
  4. Medical Malpractice & Negligent Care
  5. Nurses & Assistants
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