The long-term effects of Erb’s palsy depend on the severity of the underlying nerve injury and the use of skilled medical intervention. Some patients will experience no permanent effects, while others face a lifetime of physical limitations.
Parents may choose to pursue a birth injury claim in cases where a doctor’s negligence caused Erb’s palsy. Compensation can address the long-term effects of the condition like paying for necessary medical and surgical treatments and therapeutic measures.
How serious is Erb’s palsy? It Depends on the Child & Underlying Injury
Erb’s palsy is caused by damage to a bundle of nerves located near the shoulder. This impacts the affected shoulder, arm and hand. Symptoms and side effects may dissipate in mild cases. Surgery may be required if symptoms persist past three to six months, and nonsurgical treatments are ineffective. Even with surgery, a young patient may experience long-term effects of the injury. This is especially true in cases where the nerves are severed or otherwise permanently damaged.
Below is an outline of how a severe case of Erb’s palsy may have a long-term impact on a child.
Long-Term Effects on a Child’s Strength
Nerve damage affects muscular performance in the affected body part. This means a child with Erb’s palsy will experience decreased strength in the affected shoulder, arm and even the hand. The chest, upper back, elbow and wrist also may be affected. The muscles will not perform as they would in a “healthy” arm. This may mean a difference in size and shape between a child’s two arms.
Consistent physical therapy can help increase muscular stamina and strength. It will not, however, reverse nerve damage. Even so, an injured child is likely to benefit from working with a professional physical therapist regularly.
Long-Term Effects on Proper Nerve Function
Nerves are vital to movement and feeling. Nerve damage will impact a muscle’s growth and functionality. Surgery can restore some functionality, but there are limitations of its success. Nerve damage is permanent in many cases.
Long-Term Effects on Bones and Joints
Muscle growth stimulates bone growth. Therefore, a child with reduced nerve and muscular functioning will experience reduced bone growth. The bones in the affected arm and shoulder may be weaker than other parts of the body. They also may be smaller.
Erb’s palsy may impact joint function in the shoulder, elbow, wrist and fingers. Patients with Erb’s palsy may be more susceptible to arthritis in adulthood because of abnormal wear and tear on the joints.
Long-Term Effects on Emotional and Mental Wellbeing
A child with Erb’s palsy may feel isolated from peers based on his or her own physical limitations. The child may suffer from a poor self-image or a lack of confidence owing to the injury.