Resource for Victims of Birth Injury Malpractice Free Attorney Consultation

Birth Injury Law

Contact Information
What You Need To

Common Birth Injuries Fetal Distress About Your Claim

Free Attorney Consultation


Erb's Palsy

Contact us for a Free Consultation by emailing us at
or calling us at 866-461-9400
if your son or daughter suffers from an Erb's palsy birth injury.

Whar is Erb's Palsy?

Erb's Palsy is a nerve injury to the Brachial Plexus nerves. The Brachial Plexus is a group of nerves that run from the spine through the shoulder and to the tips of the fingers. These nerves conduct the signals from the spine allowing the arm and hand to move. Damage to these nerves affects the child's ability to control the muscles in the shoulder, arm, or hand. Your child's disability depends on which nerves are injured and how severely they have been damaged.

Children with Erb's Palsy are affected in different ways. Here are some examples:

  • Some children have no muscle control and no feeling in the arm or hand.
  • Some children can move their arms, but have little control over the wrist and hand
  • Other children can use their hands well but cannot use the shoulder or elbow muscles.

Erb's Palsy symptoms range from a stretching of the nerves with mild limitation of movement and early recovery to a tear of the nerves with complete paralysis and little potential for recovery;

What causes Erb's Palsy?

Erb's Palsy (a Brachial Plexus injury) is generally the result of a complication during the child's birth. During the delivery the baby's shoulder may get caught and stretched behind the Pubic Symphysis bone (part of the mother's Pelvis bone). This is known as Shoulder Dystocia. Unless appropriate steps are taken when the shoulder gets stuck, the Brachial Plexus nerves can be compressed, stretched or even torn.

Many babies with Erb's Palsy are larger than average at birth. However, newborns of all sizes, including premature babies, can have these injuries. A larger baby will have a greater chance of getting caught behind the Pubic Symphysis bone and getting injured severely.

About 1 or 2 babies in 1,000 suffer from Erb's Palsy. The symptoms of Erb's Palsy include a limp or paralyzed arm and/or lack of muscle control in the arm or hand.

Diagnosing Erb's Palsy?

There are 4 types of Erb's Palsy:

  • Stretch injuries vary depending on the amount of stretching. The nerves will often be compressed from swelling and bruising from the shoulder being caught. Stretch injuries are the least severe and will usually recover within 1 to 2 years with nearly complete function.
  • Neuroma injuries involve scar tissue compressing the nerves and may require surgery to restore function.
  • Rupture injuries involve the nerve being torn at several locations and require surgery and therapy to restore normal function.
  • Avulsion injuries are when the nerves are pulled from the spinal cord. This is the most severe type of Brachial Plexus injury and requires extensive surgery including a possible muscle transfer to restore function. `

Often the diagnosis is more complicated than one of the four groups above. This can occur when different injury types cause the same symptoms making it difficult to know what kind of injury has occured. In addition, sometimes more than one nerve in the Brachial Plexus is injured and the nerves may have different types of injuries.

Treatment for Erb's Palsy?

The treatment plan for your child will be based on the level of the nerves involved and the extent of the damage.

Most cases of Erb's Palsy are mild and most children will recover in 3 to 9 months. The more moderate injuries may take 18 to 24 months to recover. During this recovery time physical therapy may be necessary. Gentle range of motion exercises and electrical stimulation of muscles are be performed regularly as part of a physical therapy program to the muscles and the joints of the arm supple and prevent atrophy. Occupational therapy may also be appropriate.

In the more severe cases, surgery may be recommended. Types of Surgeries include:
  • Muscle Transfer may also be necessary if the injury has resulted in muscle atrophy.
  • Nerve Transfer is used when the nerve root is severed from the spinal cord. Less critical nerves might be hooked into the severed nerve.
  • Nerve Graft replaces damaged sections of nerves with nerves taken from other parts of the body

In the most severe cases it may take years before the full extent of any permanent impairment can be determined.

Erb's Palsy and Medical Malpractice

Many cases of Erb's palsy are preventable and avoidable. Examples of negligent care on the part of doctors, nurses, and other health care providers that might result in Erb's palsy:

  • failing to properly estimate the weight of the baby,
  • failing to determine that the baby's shoulders are too large to fit through the birth canal,
  • failing to recommend a C-section if there is a sufficient risk of shoulder dystocia,
  • failing to perform apply appropriate procedures in cases involving shoulder dystocia to prevent injury, and
  • applying excessive lateral traction to the baby's neck if shoulder dystocia does occur during a vaginal delivery.

If your son or daughter has an Erb's Palsy injury and you suspect that the injury resulted because a doctor, nurse, or other health care provider failed to provide adequate care during the pregnancy, or during the labor and delivery of your baby, you should immediately contact an attorney.

Call or email for a Free Attorney Consultation

Law Office of Joseph A. Hernandez, P.C.
Phone: (866) 461-9400
Please be sure to include your name and a telephone number where we can reach you.

Thank you for visiting the Law Office of Joseph A. Hernandez. The material located on our law firm's web site is intended to be a resource for present and prospective clients for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal (or medical) advice. This web site is not an offer to represent you. The act of sending electronic mail to our firm or to Attorney Hernandez does not create an attorney-client relationship and does not obligate the Law Office of Joseph A. Hernandez or Mr. Hernandez to respond to your email or to represent you. No attorney-client relationship will be formed unless you enter into a signed agreement of representation with the Law Office of Joseph A. Hernandez. You should not act, or refrain from acting, based upon any information at this web site without seeking professional legal counsel. Under the rules of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts and other rules, this material may be considered advertising. Licensed to practice law in the State of Massachusetts. This website does not represent other licenses, or certifications of specialization or expertise that may be available in certain states.