The birth of a newborn baby is as natural of a miracle that we can observe in our world. A newborn baby represents hope, potential, and a clean start. Hundreds of thousands of births occur every single day, and unfortunately many of them have complications that result in various difficulties for the newborn baby and its family. One form of complication, Erb’s Palsy, occurs in infants who sustain nerve damage in their brachial plexus, a cluster of nerves that root in the shoulder, near the neck, and flow down into the arms. These nerves can be injured in various ways, such as during a difficult or abnormally stressful breach birth or when the baby is excessively large.
Sadly, one of the ways Erb’s Palsy can also happen is as a result of a doctor pulling on a baby too forcefully during a challenging birth. It most commonly manifests when a newborn’s head is twisted too sharply in one direction, tearing or cutting off circulation to the nerve cluster. The condition can cause long-lasting or permanent physical disabilities in the child, from temporarily being unable to move its arms or fingers to having full limb paralysis throughout its life. Most cases of Erb’s Palsy, which happens in about one out of every thousand births, are minor cases where the child can heal over a short amount of time on its own, due to the rapid cell growth and development of newborn babies. Parents can work with doctors and physical therapists to help gradually progress the newborn into overcoming the condition and establishing a normal life.
However, in some cases, if a child who suffered damage to their brachial plexus doesn’t heal naturally within three to six months, the doctors may recommend performing surgery on the baby’s nerves. This is only usually used for young infants, since their bodies can more adequately recuperate nerve function. The child may have to endure a nerve graft, which involves taking nerves from elsewhere in the child’s body and replacing the damaged nerves. In more severe cases, they may need donor nerves. Even if the surgery if successful, children who suffer from Erb’s Palsy may still experience weakness or loss of function in the affected arm. They will need to undergo months or many years of physical therapy if there is any hope for them to regain normal function. Some may even need to have surgeries later in life. Physically, children affected with Erb’s Palsy will have one arm that is noticeable smaller or shorter than the other. Continue reading