How Medical Negligence Can Cause Erb’s Palsy

Author:
Sarah Holdsworth
Senior Associate Solicitor, Medical Negligence Claims
Date:
11/10/2021

Erb’s Palsy is an injury to the brachial plexus - a network of nerves that send signals from the spinal cord to the shoulder, arm and hand. It’s essentially when the nerves in the brachial plexus are torn or damaged, and can occur during childbirth.

There are several risk factors that can increase the risk of Erb’s Palsy, such as:

  • The baby measuring big
  • The mother having a small pelvis
  • If there’s been difficulty in delivering the shoulders in a previous birth

In some cases, it’s unavoidable even with the best care. But sadly, it can sometimes be the result of a mistake made by a doctor or midwife.

Most medical negligence claims for Erb’s Palsy are the result of either:

  • Not recommending a C-section
  • Not adopting the correct manoeuvres to release the impacted shoulder

Sometimes, a baby can recover from Erb’s Palsy, but in many instances, it can be a lifelong condition and leave your child needing lifelong care, support and rehabilitation.

If this happens to your baby, you have the option of claiming compensation for medical negligence, so they can get any treatment, therapy and other specialist help they need to manage their condition.

We understand that making a compensation claim can be daunting, but our friendly and supportive team have huge experience in this area of law, and will do everything possible to make the claims process as stress-free for you as possible.

Call our expert Medical Negligence Solicitors for a free claims assessment, so we can discuss your situation with you and how we can help you.

Call us on 08002605010 or request a callback and we will help you.

Failure to Recommend a C-section

In vaginal deliveries, after delivery of the head, the baby’s anterior shoulder can sometimes get stuck above the mother’s pubic bone. This is known as shoulder dystocia and prevents the baby from moving any further through the birth canal.

This is a medical emergency and is more likely if the baby is larger than average.

Not all large babies suffer shoulder dystocia, but healthcare professionals have a duty to check for risk factors for shoulder dystocia. They should also tell mothers if they’re at increased risk of shoulder dystocia occurring so they can make an informed choice about the mode of delivery.

If these discussions didn’t take place and they could have changed your mind about your preferred delivery method, you may have grounds to claim compensation for medical negligence.

Failure to Release the Impacted Shoulder Correctly

If a vaginal delivery proceeds and shoulder dystocia occurs, you may have a claim if it can be shown that the healthcare professionals didn’t adopt the correct manoeuvres to release the impacted shoulder to deliver the baby safely.

Healthcare professionals are trained on how to safely overcome shoulder dystocia and the latest research suggests that if appropriate care is given, it’s possible to safely deliver babies without injury to the brachial plexus.

The most widely applied technique is called the McRoberts manoeuvre and involves two healthcare professionals hyperflexing the mother's legs tightly to her abdomen. At the same time, a third healthcare professional will apply supra pubic pressure by pressing down on the mother’s lower abdomen to release the shoulder.

But sometimes, healthcare professionals perform these manoeuvres incorrectly or excessively pull, twist or stretch the head to try to release the arm, which can damage the nerves in the brachial plexus.

If this has happened to you when you were a baby, you could claim medical negligence compensation once you reach 18 years old or you could claim on your child's behalf before their 18th birthday. 

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