Another kind of case involving labor and delivery that we are consulted about on a frequent basis involves the injury of Erb’s Palsy.
Erb’s palsy cases involve one arm or the other, usually of a baby who’s arm has weakness either in the arm and shoulder or in severe cases all the way down the arm to the hands and the fingers. Erb’s Palsy cases are almost always linked with something called a shoulder Dystocia but it’s a consequence of that condition; Dystocia means that the labor is obstructed because the infants shoulder is stuck.
When the baby is being born, there is one shoulder on top, one shoulder on the bottom and the babies’ head is in the middle just as our head is in the middle of our shoulders, and so when the babies’ head emerges at the time of delivery, one ear is facing the ceiling and one ear is facing the floor. When the labor and delivery is being properly managed, there’s an obstetrician there who catches the baby’s’ head as it emerges and so one hand is on the bottom, on the bottom ear, and one hand is on the top covering the top ear supporting the baby’s head to keep the neck straight. The problem is the upper shoulder, it won’t come out and the reason why it can’t come out is mom’s pubic bone is in the way.
Now there are a variety of maneuvers that obstetricians are taught for how they can get the baby out without causing permanent injury, interestingly there are ways to get the baby out that cause injury but it’s not permanent and is better than having a life-long Erb’s palsy.
So an example of that would be the obstetrician could stick his/her thumb in and break the humerus or stick their finger in and break the collar bone thereby collapsing the shoulder and letting the baby come out because their bones heal so well those are transient injuries not permanent injuries and that is what we’re talking about, avoiding a permanent injury. What happens in an Erb’s palsy case and why these are absolutely indications of liability as far as I’m concerned is the obstetrician who has caught the babies’ head and you recall one hand is on one ear, one hand is on the other usually ,will pull down towards the floor stretching the neck and the nerves in the neck in an effort to pop that shoulder free.
When that happens, there is injury to the nerves in the neck that run into the shoulder called the brachial plexus and when that injury is and those nerve fibers tear sufficiently, they’re not going to heal, if they’re really badly torn, the arm is going to be useless or the hand will not work it can be a very devastating injury for a child. The best case is the arm will have some functionality, it will be a little weaker and there will be some challenges dealing with the activities of daily living.
Erb’s palsy cases are cases which we have handled with success here and if you should be in a situation where unfortunately your child has Erb’s palsy, I would ask that you please call us. We are experienced in dealing with these cases and I think we can help you.
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