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My child has Erb’s Palsy. The doctors said it was because of my child’s shoulder dystocia. Are the doctors to blame for my baby’s injury?

My child has Erb’s Palsy. The doctors said it was because of my child’s shoulder dystocia. Are the doctors to blame for my baby’s injury?

A: Erb’s Palsy can result from several causes, one of which is certainly medical negligence. However, a thorough review of the procedures your specific obstetrician used must be conducted before we can begin do develop a reliable theory of negligence. Obstetricians have a duty to evaluate a baby during birth to determine whether or not shoulder dystocia has occurred. Once the doctor has recognized shoulder dystocia is preventing deliver of you child, the doctor must conduct one or even a series of special maneuvers such as the so-called McRoberts maneuver to safely deliver your baby.

Several protocols have been established regarding which maneuvers should be performed in which order. If the doctor seemed panicked to you and delayed in moving from one maneuver to another, that could be evidence that the doctor was inadequately prepared to deal with shoulder dystocia and did not know any preset protocols.

The injury that occurs in shoulder dystocia births that causes Erb’s Palsy is called a brachial plexus injury. The brachial plexus is a bundle of nerve fibers that runs through the shoulder and controls the arm and hand. What causes this brachial plexus injury is the stretching or tearing of the nerve fibers when a doctor incorrectly manages a shoulder dystocia birth. Sometimes, a doctor will place his or her hands on a baby’s head and pull in one direction or another. However, if the baby’s shoulder is stuck on the mother’s pubic bone as is the case in shoulder dystocia births, that pressure to the head can injure the brachial plexus.

That is just one of the deviations from the standard of care that can cause Erb’s palsy. A diligent review of your baby’s medical records by a medical malpractice lawyer and medical expert can reveal other acts of medical negligence. That review should include neonatal records, the fetal heart monitor and strip, newborn records, and your labor and delivery records. Also, copies of imaging studies performed on the child, including ultrasounds, CT scans, or MRIs of the head should be carefully studied.

Obstetricians can use about ten different methods to resolve shoulder dystocia. Each method carries risks. If you suspect your child’s Erb’s Palsy is the result of medical malpractice, the medical record should be reviewed by an expert obstetrician to confirm your suspicions.


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