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What is Erbs Palsy and its Relevance in a Medical Malpractice Case

Apr 23, 2015 | Medical Malpractice

What is Erbs Palsy?

Usually Erbs Plasy is a condition that happens when a particular nerve is injured during a difficult delivery. At the time of giving birth, the baby passes through its mother’s birth canal. In babies who are overly large, sometimes, the head will deliver but one of the shoulders might get stuck behind the mother’s pubic bone.

In this instance, if the physician fails to recognize that the baby’s shoulder is stuck, the staff might apply traction to the baby’s head. They are thinking that by pulling mor the baby is going to come out.

If the physician applies too much traction, there is greater risk of causing significant injury and damage to the nerve that runs from the baby’s neck all the way down to its shoulder. If the damage is severe enough, the baby will wind up with a permanent injury to its arm known as Erbs Palsy. In this condition, the baby will have a useless, limp, and lifeless hand, where the atrophy will make it smaller over time. Over the course of the lifetime, the person will not be able to use that particular arm.

Why is it Important to Know about Erbs Palsy?

Just because a baby’s shoulder is stuck behind its mother’s pubic bone during delivery, does not necessarily mean it will end up with Erbs Plasy. There are certain maneuvers a doctor can use in order to attempt to relive the stuck shoulder before the staff tries to apply traction and put pressure on the baby’s head which can cause injury to the nerve.

If the doctor recognizes the fact that there is a strong chance of the baby’s shoulder being stuck, he will put the mother in a position called the McRoberts Maneuver. The doctor will take the mother’s feet all the way back so that her knees are practically touching her chest, which allows greater curvature of the spine in order to persuade the baby’s shoulder to become unstuck.

Another maneuver that is known to work is the doctor applying what is called super pubic pressure. Here the pressure is applied to the lower part of the mother’s belly with the objective of releasing the baby’s stuck shoulder.

Now, what happens if these maneuvers do not work? There are other methods that doctors can use for releasing the stuck shoulder. The doctor can reach in with his hands in an attempt to maneuver the baby, which is called the corkscrew maneuver or Woods Maneuver. If all these maneuvers do not work, there is still an option for the doctor to reach in, grab the baby’s arm, and literally pull it out to release the stuck shoulder. All these maneuvers are done without the doctor placing his hands on the baby’s head.

Grounds for a Medical Malpractice Case

The problem only arises when the doctor fails to recognize that the baby’s shoulder is stuck, and pulls excessively on the baby’s head causing damage to the nerves running through the baby’s neck down to its shoulder. This is typically called Erbs Palsy, and when the doctor fails to recognize the stuck shoulder it can be grounds for a medical malpractice case.