How Medical Negligence Can Cause Erb’s Palsy
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 more likely if the baby is larger than average and is a medical emergency.
You may have a medical negligence claim if it can be shown that the healthcare professionals didn’t follow the correct protocols to lead to a safe delivery, such as adopting the correct manoeuvres to release the impacted shoulder.
In some cases, the healthcare professional may excessively pull, twist and stretch the head to try to release the arm, which can damage the nerves in the baby’s upper arm. As the risk of shoulder dystocia increases with large babies, there may also be a possible claim where there has been a failure to correctly monitor foetal size and discuss the option of caesarean section.
It’s important to note that not all Erb’s Palsy injuries are thought to be caused by the actions of healthcare professionals and this largely comes down to which arm is injured during the delivery.
Injuries to the posterior arm are most often considered to be caused by the force of the mother’s contractions pushing the baby down the birth canal against the sacral promontory, causing injury even before the head is delivered. Injuries of this nature, however, tend to be temporary.
In many cases, if appropriate care is given then it’s possible to safely delivery babies without injury to the brachial plexus.
Does the Severity of Erb’s Palsy Injuries Vary?
Yes, it can do. Prognosis depends on which of the five nerves that supply the shoulder, arm and hand are damaged and whether the nerves are torn or only slightly bruised. Consequently, injuries of this nature can be temporary or permanent.
They may result in weakness in the arm and hand, reduced range of movement and reduced strength, so early rehabilitation such as physiotherapy is often needed. In more serious cases, surgery such as a nerve graft or tendon release may be needed.