Erb’s palsy involves the loss of movement or weakness of the arm when a bundle of nerves called the brachial plexus is injured during birth. Difficult delivery can lead to permanent problems, which may occur when an infant’s head and neck are pulled to the side as the shoulders pass, or a breech (feet-first) delivery puts pressure on the newborn’s raised arms. Sometimes, hospital staff will pull on the infant’s head during deliver, and this can easily injure the brachial plexus.
Erb’s palsy symptoms usually appear immediately and often involve abnormal movement or positioning of the arm, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. The injured arm may flop when the infant is rolled.
Up to one percent of live births are affected by Erb’s palsy each year in the US, with a higher percentage in babies with high birth weights. While some infants recover from Erb’s palsy within a few months, those who do not recover will most likely have lifelong issues with the arm. Many cases of brachial plexus injuries are preventable, but hospital staff members sometimes fail to handle a difficult delivery properly. When these mistakes happen, they must take responsibility.