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What Is the Difference Between Cerebral Palsy and Erb’s Palsy?

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Cerebral palsy and Erb’s palsy are both neurological conditions that affect movement and muscle control in infants. Both can be caused by injuries that are sustained during delivery. Where the two conditions differ is where the injury occurs. Cerebral palsy is caused by damage to a baby’s brain, and Erb’s palsy is caused by damage to the brachial plexus.

Most deliveries in the United States go smoothly. However, complications can and do happen. Conditions like an infant being too large for the birth canal can go undiagnosed, or doctors can fail to order a cesarean section.

When this happens, babies can be stuck in the birth canal. Medical malpractice can take place if a doctor or other medical personnel uses too much force when they are trying to pull the infant out.

You can visit BirthInjuryLawyer to learn more about the process of filing a lawsuit. Keep reading to learn more about how this can damage the fetus’s delicate tissues, leading to injuries that may be lifelong.

About Erb’s Palsy

Newborns with Erb’s palsy suffer damage to their brachial plexus during birth. This is a system of nerve fibers that run from the spinal cord to the armpit. Disruption of these nerves can lead to a loss of sensation in the affected arm, muscle weakness, and in the most severe cases, paralysis.

Damage to a newborn’s brachial plexus can be caused when a physician pulls a baby out by the shoulders or armpits. It can also happen when the baby’s neck is extended too far. Risk factors that can increase the chances a newborn will sustain a brachial plexus injury include:

  • Forceps delivery
  • Vacuum extraction
  • Prolonged second-stage labor
  • Small or misshapen maternal pelvis
  • Large fetus
  • Shoulder dystocia
  • Breech birth

The majority of infants who are affected by Erb’s palsy will sustain minimal nerve damage. In these cases, the nerves will heal naturally over the baby’s first year. These babies may not require any treatment.

Fortunately, the majority of cases of Erb’s palsy involve minimal damage to the nerves. For these newborns, a few months, possibly up to nine months, is all it takes for the nerves to heal naturally. Most infants with this condition will not need any treatment.

Babies with more serious nerve damage may require therapy to regain the use of the affected arm. In the most severe cases, the child will never regain the use of their arm.

About Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a term that is used to describe a group of conditions that are caused by damage to the brain. Birth injuries are just one possible cause of CP. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 85% to 90% of CP cases are congenital.

The American Pregnancy Association has reported that approximately 70% of cases were the result of brain damage that happened around the time of birth. A smaller number of cases occur during a child’s first few years of life due to brain damage they sustained due to illness, accidents, or abuse.

There are five main classifications of cerebral palsy. Each one involves a different type of movement disorder. The types of CP include:

  1. Spastic Quadriplegia/Quadriparesis

This form of cerebral palsy is the most severe type. Individuals with spastic quadriplegia are left with serious intellectual and developmental disabilities. A person who is diagnosed with this form of CP may have seizures, and they will be unable to walk. They may also have speech, vision, and hearing problems.

  1. Spastic Cerebral Palsy

Individuals who are affected by spastic cerebral palsy have stiff muscles and increase muscle tone. This type of CP is the most common. Approximately 80% of people who are diagnosed with CP are classified as this type.

  1. Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy

The muscle tone in people who are diagnosed with dyskinetic cerebral palsy goes back and forth between being too loose to too tight. People with this kind of CP have difficulty controlling their arm and leg movements. They also sometimes have trouble with sucking and swallowing.

  1. Spastic Hemiplegia/Hemiparesis

This type of cerebral palsy only affects one side of the individual’s body. It more commonly affects the arm, though it can affect the leg as well. With this type of CP, a person will have muscle weakness but not paralysis.

  1. Spastic Diplegia/Diparesis

People with this type of cerebral palsy can interfere with the ability to walk. This is because muscle paralysis or weakness can cause the legs to scissor. The ability to use the arms is generally not compromised.

Some individuals with cerebral palsy are only mildly affected. In these cases, the person may be able to live a fairly normal life. In more serious cases, the affected person will be permanently disabled.

What to Do if Your Child Is Affected

Some babies will be diagnosed with these conditions before they leave the hospital. If your newborn did not receive a diagnosis, but you suspect something is wrong, visit your pediatrician. They will address your concerns and order any necessary tests. If your child receives one of these diagnoses, your pediatrician will prescribe a course of treatment.

If your child’s condition is permanent, there are many different types of therapies that can help your child to connect with other affected children, to play, and to thrive. Some therapies can help improve symptoms or allow your child to develop the skills they’ll need for self-care.

Medical treatments, like therapy and surgeries, can be extremely costly. If you believe your child’s cerebral palsy or Erb’s palsy was caused by medical malpractice, you may want to consider filing a birth injury lawsuit to hold the responsible parties accountable.

A lawsuit is one way to get the funds you need to make sure your child is able to access the services they need. Some legal cases can be settled in a matter of a few months. Cases that go to trial can take more than a year. You may be able to recover damages for your past and future medical bills, and special equipment, and your caretaker expenses.