Articles Posted in Erb’s Palsy

identifying spinal cord injuries in infants

Spinal cord injuries in newborns are usually a result of excessive traction or rotation of the spinal cord and twisting of a baby’s trunk during delivery, and can be caused by vacuum extraction or the use of instruments such as forceps. A physician who is trying to deliver and manually manipulate positions quickly may further put a baby at risk, making a negligent doctor one of the most common reasons for a spinal cord injury to occur. The severity, mortality, and disability will depend on the type and location of the damage. Other related injuries may include pediatric skull fractures, Erb’s Palsy, and lifelong bladder and bowel dysfunction.

The best way to avoid these types of injuries is for a doctor to properly evaluate the baby’s position before labor and delivery begin. Just as important is the close observation of injury symptoms and an injury diagnosis by use of ultrasonography or MRI of the newborn’s spinal cord after delivery.

Signs of Infant Spinal Cord Injury

The mother of a three year old girl was recently awarded one million dollars by an Illinois court as compensation for injuries suffered by her daughter during delivery. According to a report by The Edwardsville Intelligencer, the jury found that the delivering obstetrician was medically negligent in his handling of the birth, resulting in severe injuries and disfigurement of the child.

The case reportedly dates back to March of 2011, when the mother’s labor was induced at a Madison County Hospital. The infant was a larger baby, reportedly weighing about nine pounds and multiple attempts at a vaginal delivery were unsuccessful. According to the report, the baby’s right arm emerged first, but her left shoulder was allegedly stuck on her mother’s pelvis. Court records state that instead of initiating a cesarean section, the physician continued with the vaginal birth. Afterwards, medical records noted that the baby’s left arm was “floppy” and a diagnosis of Erb’s Palsy was made. When discharged six days later, medical records noted that the left arm was still “flaccid with no real movement.”

What is Erb’s Palsy
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Shoulder dystocia is a rare, but potentially serious condition that occurs when a baby gets stuck during delivery. According to the health website, shoulderdystociainfo, the condition starts as a normal delivery. Once the head is delivered, the process stops because the baby’s anterior shoulder gets caught on the mother’s pubic bone. If the shoulder is not freed quickly, the result can be brain damage or even death. Of the approximately 4 million births in the United States, about 20,000 of these women experience shoulder dystocia.

The size of a baby’s head, shoulder and chest is key to the ease or difficulty of the delivery. Generally, the fetal head is the largest of these body parts. Therefore, once it moves through the birth canal, the shoulders and chest easily follow. However, when the shoulders or chest are similar in size to the head, an increased risk of dystocia occurs. When this does occur, it is usually in larger babies or mothers with a diagnosis of diabetes. For larger babies, the access growth is often seen in the shoulders and chest.
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Most focus on preventable birth injuries is on what happens during the actual birth itself. We have repeated often how injuries like cerebral palsy and erb’s palsy are sometimes caused by excessive force or failure to account for fetal distress in a timely fashion. These are the “textbook” examples of medical negligence causing an injury at birth, and at those times the civil justice system can be used to ensure accountability and compensation.

Yet, what about proper care in the hospital once the child is already born? The same principles of reasonable care free of errors applies in those cases as well. Yet, some are pointing to a new study as an example of how far many facilities still have to go to provide proper medical to infants, particularly those in the most frail conditions

Nursing Levels and Infections

The Pilot Online recently shared a wonderful story about a high school student who is thriving even after being born with Erb’s Palsy. Her story is a testament to the power of perseverance, a positive outlook, and access to necessary medical care and support for those dealing with a birth injury.

As injury attorneys in Chicago, we have worked with many families over the years whose children developed permanent injuries during childbirth. Naturally, family members minds immediately drift into thoughts about limitations and the list of things that their child may never be able to do. But at these times it is most important to consider the opposite, the possibilities. There are examples throughout Chicago, Illinois, and the rest of the country of children with any manner of special conditions or challenges who lead extraordinary lives, impacting everyone around them.

The young woman profiled in the Pilot Online story, Kara Jones, graduated from high school this spring. An athlete, Kara played on the school’s girl’s soccer team. A team captain for three years, she even scored a game winning overtime goal in a local playoff match this season. Excelling in the classroom as well, Kara graduated as salutatorian of her class. She is attending college in the Fall and is hoping to enter the medical field.

When a lawsuit is filed in the aftermath of a child being born with an injury–including things like cerebral palsy, erb’s palsy, and similar conditions–it is usually because the medical team involved in the birth did not follow proper protocols which might have prevented the harm. When these accidents strike, a child is often forced to spend the rest of their lives grappling with the consequences of the error. In some cases the error is fatal and a new life is snuffed out before having a chance at all.

Sadly, these birth errors are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to medical mistakes that strike across the country. As our attorneys have often pointed out, reports indicate that upwards of 100,000 deaths every year in the U.S. may be attributed to medical mistakes of one kind or another. These are staggering numbers that have not declined even though the problem has been documented for decades.

Clearly more awareness is needed to push for change. It is with the goal of awareness that a new documentary film focused on medical errors is attracting Kickstarter donors. Kickstarter is the web’s most popular crowdfunding site where anyone can easily money to help support various projects.

What is Erb’s Palsy? It is another form of the more well-known cerebral palsy? Not quite.

Instead, Erb’s Palsy refers to a weakness or paralysis of the arm–usually caused by damage to a nerves on the neck and arms. Birth complications and excessive force are common factors in these cases. Erb’s Palsy is often referred to by other names, like Klumpke’s Palsy or a brachial plexus injury. In all cases, however, the underlying damage is similar–physical harm that may cause lifelong complications for the child for the rest of their life.

What causes Erb’s Palsy?

Virtually all Illinois birth injury claims stems from accusations of medical malpractice on the part of doctors, nurses, and other medical providers during the labor process. When a lawsuit is filed following this malpractice, the central issue in the case is whether or not the medical providers acted according to reasonable medical standards when providing care during the labor. That presents the obvious question: what constitutes reasonable care?

The main way that the question is answered for a jury during a trial is via use of expert witnesses. Jury members are not expected to know based on their own knowledge what should have been done by the medical professionals which might have prevented the injury. Instead, experts who are trained in the area testify based on credible information and scientific theories to explain what the reasonable standards are and how a breach of those standards did or did not play into the cause of the injury. Each Chicago birth injury attorney at our firm is aware of the crucial role played by these experts.

However, not all experts are created equal.

Our Chicago birth injury attorneys just read about a recent birth injury lawsuit that resulted in an award of $1.3 million dollars for a couple whose baby was injured during birth as a result of the baby’s shoulders getting stuck during the delivery process. The lawsuit alleged that the doctor that delivered the baby negligently failed to notice that the baby’s shoulders were stuck and the doctor then used too much force to get the baby out, which resulted in permanent shoulder injuries to the baby. According to About Lawsuits, at trial evidence was presented which showed that the baby, who is now almost five years old, has limited use of one of her arms as a result of the birth injury. The young girl also has to undergo physical therapy on a regular basis in order to make sure the shoulder injury does not get worse over time. The judgment included damages not only for the medical bills, but also for the young girl’s future lost earnings, the pain and suffering the family has experienced, and the loss of family consortium (which means the loss of the family relationship that would have be expected had it not been for the negligent acts of another person).

This type of injury is a common birth injury and is commonly referred to as a brachial plexus injury, shoulder dystocia or Erb’s palsy. The brachial plexus is a nerve bundle connecting a person’s spinal cord to their shoulder, arm, and hand. During child birth, when a baby’s shoulders are stuck in the wrong position, or against the mother’s pubic bone, the doctor needs to be very careful during delivery and very aware of what is happening with the baby at all times during the delivery so the doctor can adjust the position of the baby so as not to damage the nerves and permanently damage the baby’s shoulder functioning. If proper care is not taken and the doctor tries to pull too forcefully on the baby to get them out, the doctor may case severe damage to the baby’s brachial plexus nerves.

While physical therapy and occupational therapy can help with a brachial plexus injury, the best way to prevent these types of injuries is for a doctor to realize that the baby’s shoulder is stuck and try to adjust the baby’s position before the damage is done. According to the United Brachial Plexus Network, nearly all brachial plexus birth injuries are preventable as long as proper delivery techniques are used. Unfortunately, since doctors do not always take the proper precautions around 2-3 births out of every 1000 result in an injury to a baby’s brachial plexus nerves. Given that this many babies are injured in this manner during child birth and that it is such a preventable injury, it is crucial that all doctors helping out at birth are aware of this problem and are extremely careful during delivery.

Our Chicago birth injury attorneys often receive troubling calls from heartbroken parents describing incidents of shoulder dystocia. According to a recent article from, shoulder dystocia is a birth complication often associated with, but not limited to pregnant women with diabetes. Shoulder dystocia occurs when a child’s head is delivered, but the shoulders of the child are unable to pass through the birth canal. When this occurs, the child is immediately in jeopardy of suffering serious birth injuries or even death. According to the report, sometimes doctors are able to avoid injury by quickly repositioning the child, but others aren’t so lucky.

Shoulder dystocia is one of the most dangerous birth complications. Once the head of a baby is delivered, significant strain is placed on the umbilical cord. In a typical childbirth setting this is not a problem because of the relatively short period of time between delivery of a baby’s head and shoulders. In shoulder dystocia cases, however, the prolonged stress often leads to permanent injuries.

John Perconti filed a lawsuit against Evanston Hospital in 2005 for complications suffered by Denise Juarez when the birth complication of shoulder dystocia caused her to ultimately suffer from Erb’s palsy, which is the weakness or loss of movement caused by damage to the nerve bundles at one’s shoulders.

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