How is Erb’s Palsy Different from Cerebral Palsy?

woman doctor helping young boy with physical therapy due to Erb’s palsy

Many babies are born without issue — however, one action or inaction from your doctor has the ability to change everything. Mistakes made in the delivery room may result in many birth injuries to babies and their mothers. Oftentimes, these injuries leave significant mental and physical disorders behind like Erb’s palsy as the result of a doctor’s negligence.

As one of the most common birth injuries, Erb’s palsy often results after a complicated or delayed delivery and it is very different from another common injury — cerebral palsy. Today, our birth injury attorneys are exploring the differences between these two conditions and how you may be able to pursue an Erb’s palsy malpractice claim.

Defining the Birth Injuries

Erb’s palsy is a brachial plexus injury occurring in the network of nerves near the baby’s neck. These nerves provide movement and feeling in the arm, shoulders, hand and fingers. When excessive downward pressure is forced on the child’s shoulders, head or neck physically during delivery or by a medical device such as a vacuum or forceps, these nerves can become stretched or torn. The excessive pressure often results from the negligence of a doctor or another member of the delivery team if delivery is prolonged or the baby suffers shoulder dystocia.

Cerebral palsy is a physical disorder affecting the brain’s motor cortex that controls fine motor skills and coordination. It may develop due to negligence during a complicated childbirth, delayed delivery, improper use of force or oxygen deprivation, but it may also occur without any presence of negligence. For example, if your baby is born severely premature, the risk for cerebral palsy is higher depending on the baby’s stage of development.

The Differing Symptoms

Both Erb’s palsy and cerebral palsy have limitations to movement and motor skills, but the greatest difference is Erb’s palsy is often correctable with physical therapy or surgery. Erb’s palsy only affects the brachial plexus nerves surrounding the neck, and it may be as severe as affecting the whole arm or just one specific area. Regardless, it may take years of physical and occupational therapy sessions, doctor’s visits or even corrective surgery to repair nerve damage.

Erb’s palsy is often diagnosed by a detailed physical exam performed by a pediatric neurologist or neurosurgeon, MRI of the cervical spine and/or surgical exploration of the affected area. If the injury to the nerves is permanent, your baby may have a viable claim for medical negligence due to birth injury.

Cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition that will have a different impact on each child depending on their development or length of oxygen deprivation. A child with a mild form of cerebral palsy may only have limited mobility challenges such as problems with walking while a child with a severe case may need special equipment to move and communicate.

Developing a Lawsuit for Medical Negligence

Erb’s palsy malpractice cases usually stem from preventable mistakes made by a doctor during childbirth. There are several instances where medical negligence leads to a diagnosis of Erb’s palsy down the line. These include:

  • Pulling sideways or downward on the baby’s head and neck as they exit the birth canal;
  • Failing to perform proper maneuvers to relieve shoulder dystocia;
  • Using excessive force on the head and neck at the time of delivery; or
  • Applying fundal pressure to the uterus to try to relieve the shoulder dystocia.

If you believe your baby was injured with Erb’s palsy, a birth injury attorney will help you develop the evidence you need to prove your doctor was negligent during childbirth.

Get Help from Our St. Louis Birth Injury Attorneys

Filing a lawsuit after welcoming a baby into the world may seem daunting. As mothers and fathers ourselves, we are here to guide you through the entire process after your baby’s unexpected Erb’s palsy diagnosis. If you are ready to file an Erb’s palsy malpractice claim, contact Zevan Davidson Roman for a free consultation.

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