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Erb's palsy: what it is, how it can be treated

Erb's palsy is one form of brachial plexus palsy, a palsy affecting the nerve system near the neck that controls sensation and movement in the shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers. It occurs in one to two out of every 1,000 newborns and can have permanent effects on them, including arm weakness and loss of motion. New Jersey parents might want to know more about this condition.

Erb's palsy affects mostly the upper nerves in the brachial plexus, and so it tends to affect the shoulder the most while leaving the fingers, which are controlled by lower nerves, alone. The cause could be a stretch injury of the nerves, or neurapraxia; the pressing of scar tissue from a stretch injury onto a healthy nerve, or neuroma; a rupture in the nerve; and the splitting of a nerve from the spinal cord. The last two are the most serious and will likely require nerve grafting.

These injuries often occur during difficult deliveries when the infant's neck is stretched to the side. When parents notice a lack of motion in their child's arm, they should see a pediatrician. Erb's palsy is usually treated through daily physical therapy and range-of-motion exercises. Nerve surgery is usually reserved for infants aged 3 to 6 months.

The condition in some cases is caused by an error by the medical practitioner handling the delivery. In such an event, it could be deemed medical malpractice, and as such, the parents might want to consider filing a lawsuit against the doctor as well as the hospital with the assistance of an experienced attorney.

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