Erb’s Palsy in Newborns

Most babies are born without any complications, however, a small percentage of newborns have medical issues that may have been caused at birth. An injury to the brachial plexus can cause a condition called Erb’s palsy. Babies who suffer from this injury could have lifelong disabilities.

Brachial Plexus

The brachial plexus is a group of nerves located near the shoulder. It basically ties the physical function of the body to the spinal cord and brain and is located on both sides of the body. It can be injured when force is used to assist in the birth of the baby. The doctor may use forceps, a vacuum, or his hands to pull a baby who is stuck. When the neck and shoulders are stretched, damage to the brachial plexus may occur.

Erb’s Palsy

Erb’s palsy is also known by other names such as Erb-duchenne palsy, shoulder dystocia or radial nerve palsy. These are all forms of damage to the brachial plexus nerves. The muscles of the arm on one side of the body are not able to move properly, causing the arm to droop. Some people may have tingling in the hand or arm. In some cases, the entire arm, including the hand and fingers, are affected, while sometimes only a slight reduction in movement is noted.

Treatment of Erb’s Palsy

A newborn who suffers from Erb’s palsy will almost always begin to exhibit signs immediately. The injury varies greatly from person to person, depending on the extent of the damage sustained. Sometimes the brachial plexus suffers from pulling or stretching and will improve over time. In the most severe cases, some of the nerves completely separate or disconnect. This will create permanent damage and a lifelong disability. Children with Erb’s palsy will require continued monitoring and physical therapy over a long period of time.

Medical Mistake

Injury to an infant’s brachial plexus is almost always a sign of medical negligence. When the baby is in distress due to a complication during delivery, the doctor must use care in resolving the situation. An assisted birth may be avoided if the doctor knows that the baby is at risk for a difficult delivery. In these cases, a c-section may be necessary to reduce the risk of birth injuries. A medical mistake is also called medical negligence or medical malpractice. Doctors are expected to use their experience and education to keep patients safe from harm.


In many of the cases of Erb’s palsy, the child will not lose total function of the arm, but will have some movement. This may sometimes be improved through intensive rehabilitation over a period of months or years. For a few, however, the baby will never be able to recover. These children will be permanently disabled. Medical treatments and physical therapy is expensive for these types of cases. The child and parents may be entitled to compensation to cover the medical bills as well as the loss of a normal life. Call the compassionate attorneys at Levin & Perconti to discuss your case today.

See Related Posts:

What to Do After a Birth Injury

Brachial Plexus Newborn Injuries

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