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What is Erb's palsy?

Because it is a rare birth injury, Arizona parents might not be familiar with the condition known as Erb's palsy. Also known as brachial plexus birth palsy, this condition typically results from difficult deliveries and may affect movement and feeling in an infant's arm.

The brachial plexus is located beneath each clavicle, where it is a gateway for nerves to pass from the spinal cord to each arm, hand and set of fingers. When an infant's neck is overstretched to one side, the upper nerves of the brachial plexus may suffer damage. The chances of this happening increase during exceedingly long labor as well as a breech birth.

There are generally four categories of nerve injury: neurapraxia, neuroma, rupture and avulsion. The most common is neurapraxia, which does the least damage and corrects itself within a few months. Neuroma can leave scarring behind, which can place pressure on undamaged nerves. Ruptures happen when the nerve is frayed and cannot repair itself. Avulsions occur when the nerve is severed from the spinal chord. Ruptures and avulsions typically require surgical intervention to repair. Yet, regardless of the nerve injury category, the symptoms of nerve damage are uniform, and they include paralysis and loss of feeling.

In the event that damage occurs to both the upper and lower nerves of the brachial plexus, the Erb's palsy may become more severe. In any event, the effects of Erb's Palsy are not always permanent but can be remedied with time and constant help from the child's parents.

If a neonate were to suffer Erb's palsy due to an error during delivery, the child's parents may be entitled to financial compensation through a medical malpractice claim. With regard to such matters, a personal injury attorney may be a more apt source of information and guidance for parents since this blog is intended only for the purpose of general discussion.

Source: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, "Erb's Palsy (Brachial Plexus Birth Palsy)", October 23, 2014

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