Erb’s palsy is a condition that causes weakness and loss of motion of the arms. This condition is common among infants, but few cases have been reported in adults. In children, it occurs through physical injury during a difficult delivery whereby the baby’s neck stretched to one side partially or permanently damaging the nerve networks that help in movement and feeling of the shoulder and the entire arm. It is caused by force down on the shoulder in adults, causing damage to the Brachial plexus. These injuries can be a stretch, avulse, or rapture of the Brachial plexus. Most infants usually recover from this condition after few months of birth, while the situation becomes permanent in others. Read more about this condition below;
Types of Erb’s Palsy
There are four mains types:
- Avulsion: This is a condition where the nerve is severely damaged and wholly torn(avulse) from the spinal cord. The affected nerves cannot be reattached, and it requires the nerves to be replaced by healthy ones from another part of the body.
- Rapture of the nerve: The nerve is torn apart. This type of injury cannot be left to heal independently but would require a surgical procedure to splice and graft the nerves back together.
- Neurapraxia: This is a condition where the nerve is shocked but remains intact.
- Neuroma: These are injuries that damage the fibers of the nerves
Causes and Risk factors
- Gestational diabetes: When the mother’s blood sugar is not managed correctly, the baby may be born more significantly than the standard size causing difficulty in delivery.
- Breech birth: when a baby is born feet-fist, the arms sometimes are raised, and when pressure is mounted on them, and become injured.
- Small maternal size: when the mother is petite, the delivery of the child may sometimes be difficult.
- Birth tools: when a baby is forcefully pulled out of the birth canal by the birth tools, they are likely to suffer neck and shoulder injuries.
- Long “pushing” stage: An infant may suffer brachial plexus injuries when the second stage of labor lasts for more than one hour.
The symptoms will vary depending on the type and the severity of the injury on the Brachial plexus. Some of the most common symptoms found in both adults and infants include;
- Lack of motion in the arm
- Feeling numb in the arm
- Weakness in the arm
- Partial paralysis on one arm
Erb’s Palsy Diagnosis
Early diagnosis is very crucial and will allow early treatment and prevent the condition from being permanent. The doctor may start with a physical examination of the arms to check for weakness as he moved to a neurologic exam. The physician may use other diagnostic procedures such as;
- Electromyogram: The doctor tests the nerve’s electrical activity by placing an electrode on the nerve in question and another recording electrode on the muscle where the nerve transmits signals. This procedure can assess the severity of a nerve damage
- Imaging studies: The doctor can ask for an Ultrasound or X-ray to examine the bones, neck, and shoulder to check if they are damaged.
During infancy, you should carefully monitor the growth of your child and check there are any abnormalities. Should there be any, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible to facilitate treatment and prevent these abnormalities from being permanent.
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