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Birth Injuries Information Center

Cerebral Palsy & Erb's Palsy

Some of the most common birth injuries are two very different conditions known as cerebral palsy and Erb's (or brachial) palsy. Cerebral and Erb's palsy are often the result of complications during child delivery itself, though cerebral palsy also can occur before or after delivery. If your child has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy or Erb's palsy and you believe it was caused by your doctor's negligence, contact an attorney in your area. A lawyer experienced in birth injury cases can help you understand your legal options.

Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the parts of the brain that control muscle movement and coordination. Not all cases of cerebral palsy are severe - the severity depends on which parts of the brain have been damaged and the extent of the damage. Cerebral palsy is a non-progressive disorder, which means that someone with cerebral palsy does not get worse over time, like someone with Parkinson's disease. However, the symptoms of the disorder can change over time.

The onset of cerebral palsy has been attributed to several causes that can occur during pregnancy, delivery or within the first years of a child's life. These include:

  • Genetic disorders
  • Insufficient blood flow to the brain during or after brain development
  • Bacterial meningitis
  • Infection
  • Bleeding in the brain
  • Lack of oxygen
  • Head injury
  • Severe jaundice
  • Mother's use of harmful medications during pregnancy

Symptoms of cerebral palsy in a child may take time to manifest. Some of the warning signs that a child may have the disorder include slow development in terms of rolling over, crawling, smiling and talking; abnormal or decreased muscle tone; unusual posture and poor coordination; involuntary movements; and vision or hearing problems.

Erb's (or Brachial) Palsy

Erb's palsy is a type of brachial plexus palsy that occurs when the network of nerves near the neck are stretched or torn. These nerves provide movement and feeling to the arms, hands, wrists and fingers. When the nerves are damaged, the result can be temporary or permanent loss of the child's ability to move the hand, fingers and/or arm.

Erb's palsy normally occurs during a difficult delivery, like in cases of a large baby, breeched position or prolonged labor. In these situations, the obstetrician may need to use force to remove the baby from the birth canal, sometimes with the use of forceps or a vacuum. While administering this force, the brachial plexus muscles may be stretched or torn, resulting in Erb's palsy.

According to the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS), 1-2 children out of 1000 may develop Erb's palsy. The majority of these children will recover movement and feeling in the affected parts.

Some symptoms of Erb's palsy include:

  • Limp or paralyzed arm
  • Lack of muscle control in the arm, hand or wrist
  • Lack of feeling in the arm or hand

There are treatment options available to children with Erb's palsy. Parents should consult their doctor for options specific to their child's case. Generally, range of motion exercises can help the child regain use of the limb and, in more serious cases, surgery may be required to repair the injured nerves.


If you have questions about initiating a medical malpractice case for your child's birth injury related to cerebral or Erb's palsy, contact an attorney in your area to evaluate your case.

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DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

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