Erb’s Palsy is the name for paralysis of the arm due to damage to one or more of the primary nerves responsible for movement and feeling in the arm. The condition is also known as Brachial Plexus Paralysis and is most commonly caused by trauma to a baby’s arm during birth.
The extent of the damage and its effects vary from case to case. The nerves may be either bruised or torn and the paralysis experienced can be either partial or total. In some cases, a baby with Erb’s Palsy will recover by themselves and suffer no long-term consequences, while others will be left with a lifelong disability that affects the mobility and function of their arm. This can then have a significant effect on their daily life.
How to minimise the risks of long-term damage from Erb’s Palsy
If a child is affected by Erb’s Palsy, providing the right treatment during the first year of their life can significantly increase their chances of recovery and limit the long-term consequences of the nerve damage they experienced during their birth.
There are various treatments that can be used, depending on the nature and severity of the nerve damage.
Physiotherapy – including exercises to work on range of movement, prevent stiffness and pain and sensory stimulation to improve sensation in the arm. These exercises may only be necessary during the first year of the baby’s life, or they may need to continue for several years.
Occupational therapy – covering techniques, such as how to protect your new-born’s arm during feeding, changing etc. You will also likely learn some physiotherapy exercises that you can carry out at home to help your child’s condition to continually improve.
Hydrotherapy – allows your baby to carry out physiotherapy exercises without causing stress on their body thanks to the support the water provides. This can allow them to improve their movement and build up muscle without spasms or other negative consequences.
Nerve grafts – If there is severe nerve damage, for example where the nerves are badly torn or completely severed, it may be necessary to surgically remove a non-essential nearby nerve and graft this into the damaged area. This can have very positive results in infants, allowing them to recover a significant degree of movement and sensation.
Ensuring your child gets the support they need
While much of the treatment and support a child with Erb’s Palsy needs can be accessed through the NHS, some services may need to be paid for privately. If your child’s injury was due to medical negligence during their birth, it may be possible to make a birth injury compensation claim. This can give you the money you need to ensure your child gets all of the support they need as well as providing compensation for any remaining issues that cannot be solved.
If you believe you may have a case to claim birth injury compensation, it may be worth contacting a specialist birth injuries solicitor for advice on how to proceed and how much you might be able to