One of the most well-known birth injuries in New Mexico is Erb’s palsy, a disorder where the brachial plexus nerves are damaged and cause partial or total paralysis in the affected arm and hand. This is accompanied by atrophy of the surrounding chest and shoulder muscles.

Erb’s palsy occurs in some 2 out of every 1,000 live births in this country. The nerve damage that leads to it can be caused by birth trauma, such as when the baby’s head or neck is stretched during delivery. If the baby becomes stuck in the birth canal, this could raise the risk for nerve damage. Or it could be that the baby’s shoulder becomes stuck: a condition known as shoulder dystocia.

Sometimes, the brachial plexus nerves are not torn but rather stretched. This results in neuropraxia, the least severe form of Erb’s palsy. Neuroma is a second, more serious type as it involves the stretching of the nerves to the point that they develop scar tissue. The tearing of the nerves is called “rupture.” If the nerves are torn away from the spinal cord, the result is avulsion.

Therapy can suffice for the less severe types of Erb’s palsy, but surgery will be required for ruptures and avulsions. Surgeons could, for example, graft nerve tissue from elsewhere onto the damaged tissue.

Erb’s palsy can form the basis for many birth injury cases, but the parents of the injured child may want to speak with a malpractice attorney before anything else. If hired, the attorney may bring in third parties to conduct an independent investigation of the matter and prove that the doctors or nurses involved in the delivery process were negligent. With a strong case and an attorney to negotiate for them, parents may be compensated for past and future medical bills and more.