Not many people may have heard of Erb’s palsy, but this injury to newborns can be a horrible weight and burden on the families of those affected. What makes it even harder to deal with is the fact that in most cases Erb’s palsy was due to faulty tool use or faulty technique on behalf of the medical team. In other words, it shouldn’t have happened, and it should have been completely preventable.
Erb’s palsy is when a special branch of nerves in the shoulder are injured. This usually takes place during especially difficult or rough childbirth, and, for the sake of the injured child, it is critical to make the correct diagnosis as quickly as possible. The sooner proper a diagnosis can be made, the sooner treatment can begin to help rehabilitate the damaged limb.
What Are the Signs of Erb’s Palsy?
There are several different signs to look for if you’re worried about Erb’s palsy. Most of these will be pretty easy to spot, even within the first few days after birth. You can usually tell when a baby is fully healthy versus when something is a little bit off.
The main symptoms of Erb’s palsy are:
- Obvious weakness in the affected shoulder or arm
- A loss of feeling in the arm that is affected
- Partial paralysis of one arm
- Full paralysis of one arm
The degree of the symptoms corresponds directly to the seriousness of the injury. In other words, if the damage to the nerves in the shoulder was severe, then you might be looking at a paralyzed arm. This is extremely easy to spot and shouldn’t get past the parents or the staff watching the child during those first days.
However, if the injury was relatively mild, you will have to pay closer attention to see any obvious signs of Erb’s palsy that might be an issue. Especially with lesser injuries, it can actually take some time for it to be obvious that something is amiss. There are cases where a parent didn’t know something was wrong until they noticed their baby seemed uninterested in crawling.
In extremely rare cases, the injury could be so mild that you never even know until your child is actually old enough to talk and to let you know that he or she constantly has numbness in one arm or gets occasional painful spasms but only in one shoulder or one arm.
Rehabilitation Is an Important Process
The sooner you can get a diagnosis, the better. This is especially true when it comes to severe cases of Erb’s palsy, where serious rehabilitation and treatment might be needed to have any chance of returning the arm to a reasonable state of function.
Since nerve damage is involved, complete recovery is usually impossible. Oftentimes, though, strong strides can be made to create a functional level of recovery.
Diagnosis can be achieved through a variety of ways, including X-rays, EMGs, nerve conduction studies, or in some cases even with an MRI. If any symptoms are showing after a particularly hard birth, doctors should be able to spot that and order those tests as quickly as possible to minimize the chance of any further damage.
The Need for Strong Legal Counsel
Since Erb’s palsy is most often caused by improper pulling techniques, or the improper use of medical tools, often times in this case a doctor or hospital can be found liable for damages. You need to get a strong medical malpractice attorney, who can defend your legal rights, to begin the process of seeking any compensation you are legally entitled to.