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The Causes and Ways to Prevent Erb's Palsy and Newborns

On behalf of Kammholz Law PLLC posted in Shoulder Dystocia on Wednesday, April 18, 2012.

Most parents may never need to know what Erb's Palsy means. Those that do, often learn about it shortly after one of the most joyful events in their lives, the birth of their child. Although relatively rare, this condition is always the result of a birth injury and may have life changing consequences for the child. Erb's Palsy is a loss of arm movement resulting from damage to the upper portion of the brachial plexus nerves located in the shoulder during the birth process. Brachial plexus nerves provide movement and feeling to the hand, arm and fingers. Once these nerves are damaged, the infant often needs surgery to restore function. However in some situations, like an avulsion, where the nerve root is completely separated from the spinal cord, a child with Erb's Palsy may have permanent paralysis or weakness of the arm or hand. Causes of Erb's Palsy Erb's Palsy happens when an obstetrician fails to properly free a baby's shoulder from its mother's pelvic bone. Babies delivered head-first may have their head, neck and shoulders pulled in ways that damage the nerves; babies delivered feet-first may experience pressure on their arms with the same effect. Preventing Erb's Palsy in Newborns There are ways to prevent Erb's Palsy, namely by identifying the likelihood of risk and the practice of proper technique during delivery. Risks increase with the following kinds of deliveries: • Breech delivery • Larger newborns (typically caused by diabetic mother) • Shoulder dystocia - When a baby's shoulder gets stuck behind the mother's public bone after its head has emerged To avoid potential injury to the infant, most doctors perform Cesarean deliveries once they have identified the infant is at risk. When a cesarean delivery is not an option, there a several maneuvers an obstetrician can follow to free the infant. When performed properly, these maneuvers should allow for a safe delivery. When they aren't, and an infant is injured, it is important to have the birth evaluated to see if medical negligence was behind the injury. Working with a well-trained doctor is the best way to prevent Erb's Palsy. Thankfully, due to better techniques and better recognition of risks related to Erb's Palsy, the condition is not as common as it once was. However, there are children across the country and in Rochester who remain affected by it. Source:, "Brachial Plexus Injury in Newborns," 14 November 2011

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