Erb’s Palsy Causes: Is My Doctor At Fault?

How did this happen? That’s the first thing parents wonder when their child receives a diagnosis of Erb’s palsy. And then they wonder: what are some Erb’s palsy causes? 

You’ll find this often serious birth injury near the top of the list of the most common birth injuries in the US. In fact, 1 in 1,000 babies develop it, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS). But Erb’s palsy shouldn’t be so common. Why? It’s  highly preventable – albeit, there are several Erb’s palsy causes. 

But sometimes doctors make mistakes and fail to prevent it. That’s why Erb’s palsy causes related to malpractice result in hundreds of lawsuits each year. Sometimes these lawsuits resolve with million-dollar settlements. 

Was your baby diagnosed with Erb’s palsy? The goal of this article is to help you understand the many Erb’s palsy causes. And more specifically, what may have caused your child’s condition, and whether malpractice was involved. If your physicians failed to provide proper care during delivery, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Contact an experienced birth injury lawyer to discuss your case at no cost to you.  

Erb’s Palsy can result in medical malpractice lawsuits.

Erb’s Palsy Causes

What is Erb’s palsy? It’s a condition in which the brachial plexus, a group of nerves in the shoulders and arms, is stretched and injured. You might also hear it referred to as brachial plexus palsy or Erb-Duchenne palsy.

The brachial plexus carries sensory and movement signals from the spine to the arms, wrists, and hands. Trauma to these nerves can leave a baby with arm paralysis or limited arm movement. The damage can be temporary or permanent. 

Now let’s take a look at some Erb’s Palsy causes:

Abnormal Fetal Position

There’s a higher risk for Erb’s Palsy when the fetus is breech, or feet-first. Doctors should take special care to ensure the baby isn’t injured during a vaginal delivery. If they pull a baby out feet-first, the arms might go up over the head. This can stretch the brachial plexus and lead to Erb’s palsy. A C-section is often necessary to prevent injury in these cases. 

Improper Use of Forceps

Injury from birth assistance tools is on top of the list of Erb’s palsy causes related to malpractice . A doctor should use forceps or a vacuum only when truly necessary. If they apply too much force, the tool can injure the baby’s brachial plexus and cause Erb’s palsy. 

A Large Baby (Fetal Macrosomia) & Difficult Delivery.

When a baby weighs over 9 lbs, vaginal delivery may be difficult. Doctors should monitor fetal size in the last weeks of pregnancy in order to detect macrosomia and take precautions. The baby’s head and shoulders can be stretched and pulled during labor. A doctor might schedule a C-section to eliminate the risk of Erb’s palsy and other birth injuries. 

Shoulder Dystocia

This delivery complication occurs when a baby’s head emerges, but its shoulders get stuck in the birth canal. Doctors may pull too hard in order to free them. The brachial plexus is in the shoulders, so there’s a high risk of Erb’s palsy developing.

Excessive Pulling During Delivery

It’s dangerous for a baby to stay in the birth canal too long. But there’s equal danger in pulling the baby out in a hurry. Pulling too much or in the wrong direction can result in Erb’s palsy. For example, the infant’s head and neck might bend to one side while passing through the birth canal. Or, the doctor might pull too hard on the baby’s arms, or pull their head one direction and their arm in another.

Baby with large birth weight is more prone to Erb's Palsy injury.

Risk Factors For Erb’s Palsy

You may have noticed that some Erb’s palsy causes are due to a doctor’s mistakes. Preventing brachial plexus damage has a lot to do with making the right decisions during a difficult delivery. But another key part of prevention is identifying risk factors during pregnancy. 

Certain conditions can put a baby at a higher risk for Erb’s palsy, such as:

  • Maternal diabetes
  • Pregnancy lasts over 40 weeks. 
  • Mother has a small pelvis or abnormal pelvis shape
  • Mother gained a large amount of weight during pregnancy
  • The second stage of labor lasts over an hour

Now back to the question at hand: is your doctor at fault for your baby’s Erb’s palsy? Let us help you find out, with a free review of your case. You may be eligible for monetary compensation. 

Although money can’t undo your child’s injury, it can pay for past and future medical care. It can help you give your child the best future possible.