Erb’s Palsy Claims

Erb’s Palsy Claims

Read our advice about Erb's Palsy Claims

Read our advice about Erb's Palsy Claims

Our friendly team of specialist lawyers at Medical Solicitors have the wealth of experience needed to properly investigate Erb’s Palsy Claims in medical negligence (shoulder/arm injuries to babies caused during a rough delivery).

Our Director Caroline Moore took on her first birth injury case in 1993.  She has also brought the oldest reported birth injury case in the UK, involving a Claimant born in 1964 who suffered from Cerebral Palsy. Our team has recovered many millions of pounds in birth injury compensation for vulnerable clients and their families. Senior Solicitor, Christine Brown  has also developed expertise over the years in acting for Cerebral Palsy infants and babies who have suffered from Erb’s Palsy.

Erb’s Palsy Claims for compensation claims should be investigated where:

  • there has been inappropriate advice given concerning pregnancy care options and the risks and benefits of the various options, leading to injuries to Mothers and/or their children;
  • where there have been excessive delays in providing a Mother (or their infant) with treatment in pregnancy, labour and delivery; and
  • where there has been any substandard care that amounts to actual Medical Negligence. 

Do contact our friendly team of specialist lawyers at Medical Solicitors. We conduct most of our Clinical and Medical Negligence claims under ‘No Win, No Fee’ agreements, also known as Conditional Fee Agreements. So, our clients do not have to worry about how they can possibly afford to pay for the costs of birth injury claims. You have nothing to lose in speaking to us.

Problems in Pregnancy and Childbirth

Of course, Doctors and midwives aim to ensure both mother and baby are in perfect health; this is their chosen career pathway and most deliveries have positive outcomes!  However, tragically there are still far too many mistakes being made. This can happen because of staff shortages, or unwise decision making, for example, failures by midwives to call a doctor to review a mother in labour. Also, failure to notify the paediatric team so they can attend in good time to help a baby after delivery. There can be failure to recognise signs of distress in babies during long labours, or to recognise signs of placental abruption, which causes absolute agony for a delivering Mother and highly increases the chances of death, or serious and permanent injury to babies if fast delivery does not happen.

The government is now giving maternity units incentives to perform better, through discounts in their insurance premiums where they can show that they have:

  • Procedures to report and learn from bad outcomes; and
  • where they have set standards for training; and
  • ensuring that the most senior doctors adequately cover the wards. It really isn’t fair for senior Consultants to ‘pass the buck’ to more junior doctors, nor for junior doctors to feel they cannot approach Consultants who are at hoem and ‘on-call’ in worrying situations.

Litigation is said to place a strain on the NHS. However, without investigations and litigation there would be far less incentive for change. The government’s initiatives and the Hospital Trusts’ additional efforts to comply are leading to real improvements. Patient safety for both Mom and Baby is paramount.

Examples of just a few successful Birth injury compensation claim cases

£Millions to babies injured at birth, resulting in life-changing, permanent physical and cognitive disabilities. Often such vulnerable infants have long life expectancies but will not be able to live independent lives in adulthood, will not be able to work and will require full-time care, with complex care needs, involving medical nursing care, not just mere assistance with daily tasks. This can often be an enormous worry for parents who know that they will not always be around in the long-term to provide for their damaged child.

In cases where it can be proven that birth injury should have been avoided with better care, it can be an enormous comfort to parents to succeed on their child’s behalf in a compensation claim and then know that their child will be provided for throughout their lifetime.

What is Erb’s Palsy?

Erb’s palsy is often caused when an infant’s neck is excessively stretched to the side during a difficult delivery. Erb’s Palsy is a form of brachial plexus palsy. It is named after one of the doctors who first described the condition-he was called Wilhelm Erb. One or two of every 1,000 babies have this condition, so it is not that uncommon.

The brachial plexus (pronounced “BRAY-key-el PLEK-sis”) is a network of nerves near the neck that feed all the nerves of the arm. These nerves provide movement and feeling to the shoulder, arm, hand, and fingers. Palsy means weakness, and brachial plexus birth palsy causes arm weakness and loss of motion. This can have significant consequences if a baby does not recover from this after birth.

Thankfully, most infants with brachial plexus birth palsy will recover both movement and feeling in the affected arm, often with daily physical therapy exercises. Parents play an active role in helping their child recover maximum function in the affected arm.

Anatomy

The brachial plexus is formed as the nerves to the arm, hand, and fingers pass from the spinal cord, between the bones of the neck (vertebrae) and go into the arm. Along the side of the neck, these nerves merge together. From there, they branch out to form a “highway system,” or “plexus,” of nerves.

This system of nerves then travels behind the collarbone (clavicle) and spreads out into the arm. The nerves that go to the shoulder lie higher in the neck than those that travel to the hand and fingers. Nerves that provide feeling to the hand and fingers lie lower in the neck and deep in the armpit.

In most cases of brachial plexus birth palsy, it is the upper nerves that are affected. This is known as Erb’s palsy. Although an affected infant may be able to move their fingers, they may not be able to move their shoulder. If both the upper and lower nerves are stretched, the condition is usually more severe than just Erb’s palsy. This is called a “global,” or total, brachial plexus birth palsy.

In general, there are four types of nerve injuries. All can occur at the same time in the same infant. The symptoms of a nerve injury are the same (loss of feeling and partial or complete paralysis), regardless of the type of injury. It is the severity of the injury that affects both treatment decisions and the extent of recovery possible.

Neurapraxia

A stretch injury that “shocks,” but does not tear the nerve is the most common type. This is called a neurapraxia (new-rah-PRAK-see-ah). Normally, these injuries heal on their own, usually within 3 months.

Neurapraxia can happen in adults, as well as infants. For example, when it happens to football players who are injured during play, it is called a “burner” or “stinger.”

Neuroma

A stretch injury that damages some of the nerve fibers may result in scar tissue. The scar tissue may press on the remaining healthy nerve. This condition is called a “neuroma.” Some, but not total, recovery usually occurs.

Rupture

A stretch injury that causes the nerve to be torn apart (ruptured) will not heal on its own. A rupture happens when the nerve itself is torn.

Avulsion

An avulsion happens when the nerve is torn from the spinal cord. Nerve ruptures and avulsions are the most serious types of nerve injury. It may be possible to repair a rupture by “splicing” a donor nerve graft from another nerve of the child. It is not possible to repair an avulsion from the spinal cord. In some cases, it may be possible to restore some function in the arm by using a nerve from another muscle as a donor.

Cause of Erb’s Palsy (brachial stretch injury)

Brachial plexus stretch injuries in newborns usually occur during a difficult delivery, such as with:

  • a large baby, a
  • breech presentation, or
  • a prolonged labor.
  • They may also happen when a birth becomes complicated and the person assisting the delivery must deliver the baby quickly and exert some force to pull the baby from the birth canal. If one side of the baby’s neck is excessively stretched, the nerves may also be stretched, and injury may result.

Symptoms

  • Weakness in one arm
  • Loss of feeling in the arm
  • Partial or total paralysis of the arm

Treatment

Because most newborns with brachial plexus birth palsy recover on their own, your doctor will re-examine your child frequently to see if the nerves are recovering. Nerves grow and recover very slowly; it may take up to 2 years for a complete recovery.

Nonsurgical Treatment

Daily physical therapy is the main treatment method for Erb’s palsy.

Because a baby cannot move the affected arm all alone, parents must take an active role in keeping the joints limber and the functioning muscles fit. Your doctor or a physical therapist will teach you how to do exercises with your baby to keep your baby’s arm in good condition.

Daily physical therapy and range-of-motion exercises, done as often as possible during the day, begin when a baby is about 3 weeks old. The exercises will maintain the range of motion in the shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand. This will prevent the joint from becoming permanently stiff, a condition called joint contracture.

Surgical Treatment

If there is no change over the first 3 to 6 months, your doctor may suggest surgery on the nerves to improve the potential outcome.

In microsurgery, surgeons often use high-powered microscopes and small, specialized instruments. Nerve surgery does not typically restore full, normal function, and is usually not helpful for older infants.

Weakness of the left shoulder, arm, and hand persist in this young child with brachial plexus birth palsy.

Nerve graft. Depending upon the nerve injury, it may be possible to repair a rupture by “splicing” a donor nerve graft from another nerve of the child.

Nerve transfer. In some cases, it may be possible to restore some function in the arm by using a nerve from another muscle as a donor.

Because nerves recover very slowly, it may take several months, or even years, for nerves repaired at the neck to reach the muscles of the lower arm and hand. After surgery, your doctor or physical therapist will provide rehabilitation exercises to perform at home to improve your baby’s strength and range of motion.

Many children with brachial plexus injuries will continue to have some weakness in the shoulder, arm, or hand. There may be other surgical procedures that can be performed at a later date that might improve function. As your child grows, your doctor will discuss the various treatment options and make a specific recommendation based on your child’s individual situation.

Living with Erb’s Palsy

In some children, the affected arm is noticeably smaller than the unaffected arm. This occurs because nerves do have an effect on growth. Although the affected arm will continue to grow as the child grows, it grows at a slower pace, and the size difference will become more noticeable as the child gets older.

Children are very adaptable. Be supportive and encouraging, and focus on all the things your child can do. This will help your child develop a healthy sense of self-esteem and compensate for any limitations in function.

Follow our links below to quickly access our information pages about how we can help with Erb’s Palsy Claims, Inquests, funding a medical negligence claim and more:

Contact our Pregnancy and Childbirth Problems Medical & Clinical Negligence Claims Lawyers

We provide urgent legal advice and support for patients anywhere in England & Wales. We have doctors and barristers located all over the UK, who provide us with meeting facilities, in London, Birmingham, Sheffield, Yorkshire, Oxford, Manchester, Leeds, Hull, Liverpool, Newcastle and beyond. Our team will travel to see clients. We think it best to see our clients in the comfort of their own home over a cup of tea. You are not a number to us. Call or email our friendly team free of charge for specialist legal advice on a no win no fee basis today.

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