Erb's palsy is a form of brachial plexus palsy. It is named after one of the doctors who first described this condition, Wilhelm Erb.
The brachial plexus is made up from five large nerves which come out of the spinal cord between the bones in the neck (the vertebrae) and give movement and feeling to the arm These nerves are represented by the symbols C5, C6, C7, C8 and T1 Shortly after coming out of the neck, the nerves come together and then divide among the muscles and tissues of the arm. The brachial plexus runs from the neck and passes under the collarbone to become the major nerves of the arm at about the level of the armpit.The nerves can be damaged causing serious injuries.
Erb's palsy is most commonly caused during birth. If too much force is applied to the baby's head, while trying to pull out a baby stuck in the birth canal, the nerves of the brachial plexus can become damaged. The baby may be too large to fit easily through the birth canal. When the baby's shoulder gets stuck in the birth canal, it is called "shoulder dystocia."
Shoulder dystocia is an obstetric complication that occurs in thousands of deliveries each year in the UK. It has the potential for causing significant, lifelong injury to the babies involved in such deliveries. Despite the hundreds of published studies on shoulder dystocia and training, there are still doctors and midwives all over the country that fail to deal with this emergency correctly.
One or two of every 1,000 babies have this condition. Most infants with brachial plexus birth palsy will recover both movement and feeling in the affected arm. Unfortunately, about 20% of the time, the injury is so severe, or the nerves are actually avulsed (torn from their points of attachment to the spine), or they may be ruptured, so that paralysis of the arm and shoulder is permanent. If there is no sign of recovery or functional improvement then you should seek the advice of a specialist who may suggest surgery to repair the nerves of the brachial plexus.
The effects of Erb's palsy can be devastating and if your own or your child's life has been affected by this condition, then it is important you seek the advice of a competent experienced lawyer in this area. At Michelmores, we have specialist Erb's palsy Lawyers that can assist you in bringing a claim for medical negligence.
If you would like to discuss a medical negligence claim relating to Erb's Palsy in confidence, please contact the Michelmores Medical Negligence Team for discreet and impartial advice.