Erbs palsy is a condition caused by damage to the nerve groupings that branch out from the neck, pass across the shoulders and then reach down the arms to the tips of the fingers. This collection of nerve groups is known as the brachial plexus. The nerves of the brachial plexus are responsible for the movement of the fingers, hands and arms. Damages to these nerves can result in a long-term disability. Erbs palsy is an injury to the brachial plexus nerves. This condition occurs in about 1 in 1800 births in Europe and when it does occur it may well be as a result of medical negligence.
Erbs palsy is most often caused by some type of trauma suffered by the child during the birthing process. One of the most common causes of Erbs palsy is the use of excessive force during delivery. In particular, a child is in danger of developing Erbs palsy if excessive force is applied in a situation where the child’s shoulder is lodged behind the mother’s pelvis. This condition is known as shoulder dystocia, and over use of force to free the child’s shoulder can result in the tearing of the child’s shoulder muscles and the brachial plexus nerves. The term ‘excessive force’ implies clinical negligence and the parents of any child with this condition should consider discussing the matter with a specialist medical negligence solicitor.
There are well-known risk factors which should alert the physician to the possibility that a caesarean section will be needed in order to avoid shoulder dystocia. Failure to take action in the presence of these risk factors may amount to medical negligence. These risk factors for Erbs palsy and brachial plexus nerve damage include :-
high estimated birth weight
short maternal stature
similar problems in previous birth(s)
If a risk of shoulder dystocia is apparent, and the attending physician does not follow established clinical protocols to protect the child from injury, then the physician may be liable, as a result of medical negligence, to pay damages for personal injury. Medical negligence occurs when a healthcare provider’s actions fall below the standard of clinical care which would be considered reasonable by the medical community. Most children in UK will qualify for legal aid and medical negligence solicitors with a legal aid franchise may well find legal funding available.