Erb's palsy is a birth injury that affects the network of nerves that give movement and range of motion to the shoulder, arm, hands, and fingers. It usually results from difficult and prolonged labor, and the condition results in stiffness, weakness, and sometimes loss of motion in the affected arm. Based on national statistics, one out of every 1000 babies born in Arizona will be affected by this condition.
In most cases, Erb's palsy will heal on its own. In moderate to severe cases, babies who suffer from Erb's palsy may require treatment to regain complete or partial use of the affected arm.
For moderate cases, an infant may need physical therapy to increase his or her range of motion in the affected arm. Most doctors would suggest that these exercises begin when an infant is at least three weeks of age, and the exercises should be done multiple times a day for at least three to six months to strengthen the affected arm.
If there are little to no signs of improvement after three to six months, surgery on the nerves in the affected arm is usually the next step in treatment. Doctors note that nerve surgery may take months or years to completely heal, and the surgery typically doesn't restore full range of motion to the affected arm. Additionally, surgery isn't as advantageous for older infants, so it is important to determine if surgical treatment is a necessary as soon as possible.
Treatment for infants who are born with birth injuries like Erb's palsy can be costly. If an infant's birth injury is due to the negligence of doctors or hospital staff, a lawyer may be able to help the parents of the infant file a medical malpractice action to obtain compensation to cover future medical costs and other damages.
Source: Ortho Info, "Erb's Palsy (Brachial Plexus Birth Palsy)", November 26, 2014