Erb’s palsy is a birth injury to the brachial plexus nerves. However, it can occur in adults as well. According to the Cleveland Clinic, it affects the shoulder and arm movement and can even lead to paralysis. A brachial plexus in the neck is a set of nerves that control the shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers’ signals and sensations. Palsy refers to the weakness of these nerves. It leads to motion loss and liability.

Erb’s palsy occurs during birth when the baby’s neck stretches to the side. It appears when the baby’s shoulder is stuck inside the mother’s pelvis, and the doctor has to move the head. It is easily avoidable, given proper care by the doctor during delivery. According to OrthoInfo, every one or two out of 1,000 babies born in the US sustain Erb’s palsy. 

Physical and occupational therapies can help curb Erb’s palsy. If that does not work, then surgery helps treat any extreme cases. Under some circumstances, it can leave lasting complications.

How does Erb’s Palsy occur in Newborns?

Erb’s palsy occurs due to the doctor’s negligence in giving prenatal care before and after delivery. If the doctor is unaware of the mother’s health condition and does improper delivery, it could lead to Erb’s palsy. It occurs in 2.6 per 1,000 live births or 12,000 births per year in the US. The baby’s parents can file an erbs palsy medical malpractice lawsuit against the responsible party. They do this to get a financial claim for the baby’s treatment costs and medical care. Physical therapy sessions and surgery can get heavy on the pocket. Therefore, the responsible party must pay the price for their negligence. 

What kind of injuries lead to Erb’s Palsy?

Four kinds of injuries lead to brachial plexus injuries:

  • The most severe type of injury occurs when a nerve from the spine rips away.
  • Nerve rupture is when it is torn, but not from the spine.
  • Neurapraxia refers to a stretched nerve, causing stress to the spine. It is a widespread type of injury.
  • A neuroma is when a torn nerve is healed but left with a scar. The scarred tissue keeps the nerve from sending movement signals to the muscles.

What Signs and Symptoms show the presence of Erb’s Palsy?

If the baby cannot move arms, elbows, and shoulders, you can generally tell that an infant has Erb’s palsy. It does not directly affect hand muscles, but the child may experience tingling and numbness due to a lack of nerve message signals in the arm. However, some obvious signs include:

  • Limp shoulders and arms, where the child cannot move the arms and elbow away from the body
  • Abnormal tingling of the arm and hand is also called stingers or burners.
  • The palm turns towards the back with fingers curling up, also called a waiter’s tip position.

What is the Diagnostic Procedure for Erb’s Palsy?

The pediatrician may begin with a physical examination and ask to conduct specific diagnostic tests. These include an EMG (electromyography) and imaging tests. An EMG test involves testing how well the nerves and muscles work. While imaging tests include taking a picture of your internal system to determine what is happening inside, the doctor may ask to conduct an MRI, CT scan, an X-ray, and a myelogram. 

The test results will determine the severity of Erb’s palsy. Based on this, the doctor will recommend the necessary treatment required. If it is easily treatable with physical therapy, you may need to set an appointment with a physiotherapist. However, if the injury is extreme, the doctor may recommend a surgical procedure. 

How to Reduce the Risk of Having an Erb’s Palsy?

It is vital to get adequate prenatal care to reduce the chances of getting an Erb’s Palsy. The mother can get it, too, if she has gestational diabetes while expecting twins or taking oxytocin or an epidural during labor. Therefore, your prenatal healthcare provider must have all your medical information to prevent you or the baby from getting an Erb’s palsy. 

Additionally, have a birthing plan in place with your doctor. Get a caesarian section in time if required. In case of preterm birth, take hormones recommended by your doctor to help stabilize and delay the labor until the time is right. 

When Should I Approach my Healthcare Provider Regarding Erb’s Palsy?

The sooner you can recognize the signs and symptoms of an Erb’s palsy, with either yourself or the baby, you must immediately set an appointment with your healthcare provider. The more extended period of untreated Erb’s palsy would be challenging to treat. Nerve damage is a susceptible area to deal with; therefore, you must approach it delicately but quickly. You will have to keep up with your doctor’s appointments and be sure not to miss a physiotherapy session. 

Does Medical Malpractice lead to Erb’s Palsy?

Yes. Medical malpractice on behalf of the doctor can lead to Erb’s palsy. Medical malpractice includes pulling the baby’s head and shoulders too hard or moving the baby during birth. An inefficient or careless doctor can do such a thing if they are unaware of the mother’s health or the baby’s condition.

Is Erb’s Palsy Fatal or Permanent?

Erb’s palsy is not fatal. However, it can become permanent if it goes undiagnosed and untreated or if it is too severe to stop with surgery. However, the good news is that more than 80% of patients make a full recovery, given proper and timely care. 

What is the Process of Filing for a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

You start by contacting a birth injury attorney. They will first send a legal notice to the doctor’s attorney with a financial claim for the injury. The lawyers of the two parties will try to settle it outside court. If they fail, a judge in court will hear both arguments before declaring a verdict. 

However, it is essential to file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations. It can vary from State to State. You must ask your birth injury lawyer about the statute of limitations regarding medical malpractice in your State. 


Erb’s palsy is the damage to nerves in the neck called brachial plexus nerves. It can lead to loss of touch, limpness of the arms, tingling, or numbness in the elbows and hands. It is an easily avoidable birth injury, provided you get proper prenatal care. Ensure that your doctor knows about your medical history. 

If it still occurs, you have a legal right to sue the doctor to get a financial claim for the damage. You can then use this amount to fund the treatment of either your baby or yourself. 

A mild case of Erb’s palsy is treatable with physical and occupational therapy. In extreme cases, the patient gets surgery. It can be permanent if it goes undiagnosed and untreated. Therefore, immediately contact your doctor as soon as you note any symptoms of Erb’s palsy. If you get a positive diagnosis, you can contact a birth injury attorney to sue the doctor responsible for it.