An overview of Erb's palsy-part I

Many people in San Bernardino may have heard of cerebral palsy and understand how it can affect one's health and quality of life. Yet many may not have heard of another type of palsy that could result in a long-term injury. This condition is commonly called Erb's palsy.

Erb's palsy is a birth injury that involves the nerves that comprise the brachial plexus. These are nerves that are located in a person's neck that communicate with the nerves of a person's upper extremities, that is, the person's arms, fingers, shoulders and hands. Erb's palsy can affect a person's ability to move and retain feeling in their upper extremities.

It is estimated that out of every 1,000 infants, approximately one or two of them will suffer from Erb's palsy. Erb's palsy can be a complication of the birthing process. For example, if there is breech delivery, a large baby or an extended delivery, the attending physician may use too much force in delivering the baby, resulting in a birth injury. There are four types of injuries that may result in Erb's palsy.

One such injury is a neuroma. This injury is caused when the neck is stretched, damaging the nerves and resulting in scarring of the surrounding tissue, which puts pressure on otherwise functioning nerves. Another injury is a rupture. This happens when the nerves are ripped during the delivery process. A third injury is neurapraxia. This type of injury does not rip the nerve but does shock it. Finally, a fourth injury that could result in Erb's palsy is an avulsion. This occurs when the nerve is ripped away from the infant's spinal cord.

In a subsequent blog post, we will discuss the treatments available for Erb's palsy. Until then, those with more questions about this type of birth injury may want to consult with a professional.

Source: OrthoInfo, "Erb's Palsy (Brachial Plexus Birth Palsy), accessed March 1, 2015

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