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Could your doctor have prevented your infant’s Erb’s Palsy?

Erb’s Palsy is also called a brachial plexus nerve injury, and it affects the nerve bundle that controls the muscles and movement in your shoulder, arm, hand and fingers. It can range in severity from a relatively minor injury that eventually heals to an enduring, life-altering disability.

The third week in October of each year is dedicated to brachial plexus nerve injury awareness. While adults can develop an injury to this area through an accident or even while playing a rough-and-tumble sport, the most common victims are often newborns.

Most cases of brachial nerve injuries happen after a misguided attempt to deliver a baby that is either too big or too badly positioned to be delivered vaginally. The baby’s shoulders can literally get stuck against the mother’s pelvic bones.

Sometimes the doctor will force the vaginal delivery by one means or another, but the situation is usually handled through an emergency cesarean delivery. Even then, however, it sometimes takes a great deal of force to free the infant from his or her position, which can result in the brachial plexus nerves becoming stretched or torn.

If your newborn has Erb’s Palsy, how do you know if the physician is at fault? Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Did you have any risk factors that should have made your doctor cautious about attempting a vaginal delivery? Was your baby very large? Are you very small with slender hips? Did your doctor take note and suggest a cesarean early or basically ignore the risk?
  2. Were you pushed into giving birth while lying on your back? There’s no sound medical reason to do so — it’s purely for the convenience of your doctor and can reduce the space the baby has to pass through your pelvis by as much as 30 percent.
  3. Did your doctor use forceps or a suction tool to deliver the baby? Did he or she break the baby’s collarbone or leave visible bruises on the baby’s head, neck or shoulder?

If you find yourself not liking the answers to those questions, you may have good reason to talk to a personal injury attorney about your infant’s brachial plexus injuries to see if you have a case.

Source: Birth Injury Guide, “Support Options for Brachial Plexus Injury Victims,” accessed Oct. 11, 2017

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