A Study of Two Erb’s Palsy Medical Malpractice Cases

Erb's palsy injury

Childbirth brings with it the possibility of complications and injuries to the baby. One such injury, Erb’s palsy, can affect a baby’s shoulder, arm and hand. This can leave the baby with a limp arm. There are factors that, if present during the pregnancy, can indicate that the baby is at an increased risk for an Erb’s palsy injury. When these factors are present, the doctor delivering the baby should take appropriate steps to avoid the injury. Failure to do so may constitute a medical malpractice case.Check this out!

Erb’s palsy injuries most often occur in situations involving (1) a large baby, (2) a breech position or (3) prolonged labor. These factors generally make a natural delivery difficult. In order to complete the vaginal delivery, the doctor or other health care professional may perform maneuvers (sometimes involving the use of forceps or a vacuum) that can cause excessive pulling on the shoulders during a headfirst delivery or put excessive pressure on the arms during a breech delivery. As a result, the nerves in the network of nerve fibers that send signals from the spinal cord to the shoulder, arm, wrist, hand and fingers are damaged. This leads to a lack of control over movement and sensation in those areas.

There are four types of injuries that can occur to these nerves. In increasing order of severity, these are:

1. Praxis. The nerve is damaged but not torn.
2. Neuroma. The injured nerve develops scar tissue. This reduces or blocks the signals sent by the brain to the muscles.
3. Rupture. The nerve is ripped but remains attached to the spine.
4. Avulsion. The nerve is torn from the spine.

Many babies suffer from the milder forms of Erb’s palsy and are able to fully recover within 6 months. Physical therapy may constitute an integral part of treatment. In cases involving a rupture or tear of the nerves, however, surgery may be necessary. Sometimes, multiple surgeries are required.

To be effective, surgery must normally be performed before the baby is one year old. Even when successful, it may take years for the child to regain sensation and movement of the arm, shoulder or arm. This is due to the slow growth of nerve tissue. Postsurgical rehabilitation usually involves extensive physical therapy exercises and other coordinated treatments. When surgery is not fully successful, the child may be left permanently unable to have full, or sometimes even partial, use of the affected arm. Read this news:http://www.news-medical.net/health/Erb-Duchenne-and-Dejerine-Klumpke.aspx

Consider the following two cases in which factors suggesting an increased risk of an Erb’s palsy injury were clearly present but were ignored by a doctor which was constituted as a medical malpractice case.

Case Study 1:

A pregnant woman reported to the hospital for deliver. She had previously delivered very large children. The sonogram estimated that the baby’s birth weight was more than 10 pounds. This placed the baby at risk of shoulder dystocia, a complication that can lead to an Erb’s Palsy injury. The mother requested a C-section but her doctor refused her request and performed a vaginal delivery. Following delivery, the baby was unable to breathe on his own and required resuscitation. His arm was limp, a sign of injury to the brachial plexus nerves. The baby was later diagnosed with Erb’s Palsy. The law firm that handled the case reported a multimillion dollar settlement.

Case Study 2:

A pregnant woman was suffering from gestational diabetes. Fetal studies showed that the baby was approximately 9 pounds, 6 ounces. Instead of performing a C-section, her obstetrician attempted a vaginal delivery. During delivery, the baby’s shoulder became stuck behind the mother’s cervix. The obstetrician then used an improper delivery technique resulting in an Erb’s Palsy injury to the baby. The law firm handling the case reported a settlement in the amount of $2,625,000.

Erb's palsy injuryIn both cases above, there were clear indications that the baby would be a large baby, thus increasing the risk of shoulder dystocia and injury. Yet, in both cases, the doctor involved chose to proceed with a vaginal deliver rather than a C-section. By showing that the babies both suffered an Erb’s palsy injury and a severe, permanent disability as a result of this decision, the law firms handling these cases were able to help these families.

If your child suffers from Erb’s Palsy you should immediately contact a medical malpractice attorney to determine whether you and your child may have a medical malpractice case against the doctor or other medical care professional responsible for your child’s injury. Keep in mind that the law limits the amount of time you have to pursue a claim.

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