Erb’s Palsy or Brachial Plexus Palsy occurs in approximately 1 in 350 live births in the U.S. A. Erb’s Palsy is a condition that occurs when damage to a set of nerves called the brachial plexus has taken place. When these nerves are damaged the child may lose some or all of the function of his/her hand, elbow and/or shoulder. This may occur in one or both arms and is commonly referred to as Erb’s palsy or brachial plexus palsy.
Erb’s palsy is more common in large children. This is because larger children are at a higher risk for encountering a condition known as shoulder dystocia. Shoulder dystocia occurs when the child’s shoulder becomes lodged in the birth canal. When the child’s shoulder is stuck the doctor, midwife or medical staff often apply excessive force to deliver the child. This force stretches or tears the nerves leaving the child with the paralysis.
In many instances damage the child could have been avoided. For example, the doctor should have predicted the size of the child and a c-section should have been performed or the doctor should have performed maneuvers to dislodge the child’s shoulder to avoid the injury.