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What is Erb’s palsy?

If your baby shows signs of weakness in one arm after birth, he or she may be suffering from Erb’s palsy. This is a birth injury that may occur most often in difficult deliveries in Washington. According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, Erb’s palsy most often happens when the neck of the infant is stretched too far to the side.

This injury may also be referred to as brachial plexus palsy. It affects the nerves that run from the neck down to the arm, which is called the brachial plexus. Typically, when caused during birth, it is due to the baby being too large, the birth canal being too narrow or a breech birth. A prolonged labor may also increase the chances of it occurring. Over stretching this nerve leads to the palsy effects. A baby may show signs of not moving one arm or hand. Upon examination, a doctor will usually notice weakness in the arm and then diagnose the condition. Sometimes an x-ray or other tests will be ordered to confirm the diagnosis.

In infants, Erb’s palsy usually clears up on its own with no lingering side effects. The doctor will likely just monitor your child. You may be given exercises to do with your baby to help increase healing. In extreme cases where the baby is not healing and the palsy is not going away, surgery may be needed. For some children, the effects will be long-lasting, resulting in weakness and a smaller range of motion in the affected arm, shoulder and hand. This is general information only and is not intended to provide legal advice.