A new parent with a child diagnosed with a brachial plexus injury often wants to know, “What can I expect in the first year of Erb’s palsy?” The answer depends on the severity of the underlying nerve injury. Mild injuries may “self-resolve” with the passage of time and the use of physical therapy. More serious cases may require surgery within the child’s first year.
The child’s doctor and therapists are the best resources for guiding a parent in the first year. An Erbs Palsy attorney in Florida can talk to the parents about the legal considerations for the first year. This includes timelines and other requirements for filing a medical malpractice claim if medical negligence is a factor.
An Explanation of Erb’s Palsy
Erb’s palsy is caused by a nerve injury in the brachial plexus nerve network. This impacts function in the baby’s shoulder, upper chest, arm and hands. It also impacts sensation, range of motion, strength and growth. The severity of the injury is tied directly to the severity of the long-term effects.
What to Expect When a Newborn Has Erb’s Palsy
A child with Erb’s palsy will exhibit weakness in the affected shoulder and biceps. Some of the ways this might manifest include:
- little control over the arm or hand;
- inability to crawl or sit up without assistance;
- affected arm may hang limp at the baby’s side; and
- paralysis and/or a lack of sensation of the entire arm.
These are the most common symptoms and complications of Erb’s palsy. Each patient is unique, and affected children may exhibit additional signs.
Treatment in the First Year of Erb’s Palsy
At-home physical therapy may begin in the first weeks of life to treat and avoid muscle and joint stiffness and reduce atrophy. The physical therapy schedule may vary from patient to patient.
In mild cases, the child may recover within several weeks. Surgery may be necessary in cases where nonsurgical options fail. Surgery typically occurs when the child is five months to one year old. The schedule will depend on the child’s health, progression and other factors. Surgical options may include a nerve graft or a nerve transfer. Both procedures require healing time and post-surgical physical therapy.
Other Considerations in the First Year
Parents of newborns with Erb’s palsy may receive special instructions on how to pick up or hold their baby. For example, a doctor may recommend not picking up the baby under the armpits. Parents may consider seeking counseling or a support group to cope with the emotional impact of their child’s injury.