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What is Erb’s Palsy?

Erb’s palsy is a specific type of injury that results in muscle weakness in the arm or shoulder. This condition can occur as a result of a birth injury or an event that occurs later in life. Most commonly, we see that these injuries happen in infants whose shoulder is injured during the delivery process. Here, we want to review Erb’s palsy and discuss whether or not individuals can recover compensation in a Houston birth injury lawsuit if the incident was caused by a medical error.

A Patient is Treated for Erb's Palsy

Understanding Erb’s Palsy

Many people think Erb’s palsy is the same thing as cerebral palsy, but it is not. Cerebral palsy is a condition that develops as a result of brain damage at the time of child is born, whereas Erb’s palsy is a nerve condition associated with the shoulder and arm that results in a loss of muscle function and weakness.

The brachial plexus is a group of nerves that connect the spine to the shoulder, arm, and hand. These nerves allow that area to experience feeling and movement. If the nerves in the brachial plexus fail to work well as a result of tearing or stretching, this is a condition called brachial plexus palsy. Erb’s palsy is one condition under the brachial plexus palsy umbrella. This condition involves the upper nerves in the brachial plexus.

Types of Injuries Associated With Erb’s Palsy

There are various types of injuries that can occur that lead to Erb’s palsy:

  1. An avulsion occurs when the nerve rips completely away from the spine. This is considered the most severe type of Erb’s palsy.
  2. The nerve could also rupture if it is torn, but not torn all the way away from the spine.
  3. Neuroma occurs if the nerve has torn and then he heals, leaving behind scar tissue. The scar tissue can put pressure on the injured nerve and prevent it from sending the correct signals from the brain to the muscle.
  4. Neurapraxis occurs if the nerve gets stretched but does not tear. This is the most common type of brachial plexus injury that occurs.

Who is Affected by Erb’s Palsy?

Erb’s palsy could develop as a result of a difficult vaginal birth, but this can also occur during a C-section. During the delivery process, medical providers sometimes have to move the child’s head to one side in order to make room for their shoulders to be delivered. In some cases, this can stretch the nerves and the brachial plexus and cause damage.

Some of the early symptoms of Erb’s palsy include limpness or paralysis of the arm, shoulder, or elbow. This can also include numbness and tingling in the arm or hand, often referred to as “burners” or “stingers” when associated with brachial plexus injuries. Additionally, the hand could position itself into “the waiter’s tip” position, which is when the palm of the hand points backward, and the fingers curl.

Additionally, it is not impossible for adults to suffer from Erb’s palsy if they sustain various types of injuries to the brachial plexus area.

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