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Many risks accompany pregnancy and birth, and parents in Iowa sometimes must cope with a birth injury known as Erb’s palsy. This condition results from injury to the brachial plexus nerves during a difficult or poorly executed delivery or cesarean section. The brachial plexus nerves govern the shoulder and arm. Stretching them too much during delivery by moving an infant’s head in the opposite direction of the shoulder results in damage that leaves the infant with loss of sensation or muscle control of the shoulder or arm. Symptoms range from weakness to paralysis.

Over time, an infant might recover naturally from the injury and regain function. Physical therapy also plays a role in helping infants restore nerve connections. Physicians treating infants with Erb’s palsy observe symptoms during the early stages to detect signs of recovery. Surgical intervention is often undertaken when improvements are not evident. Surgery has the best chance of correcting problems when completed during an infant’s first year. Studies who investigated long-term results for infants who did not receive surgery showed that between 20 and 25 percent of them had impaired shoulder or arm function throughout their lives.

Tests and physical examinations of an infant determine the presence of damage to the brachial plexus. An EMG test could measure the status of muscle and nerve tissues. Imaging with an MRI or CT scan could also detect damage.

Because the stakes can be so high when birth injuries occur, parents rely on medical professionals to perform their jobs correctly. Mistakes during delivery, failure to detect injuries in an infant or inadequate treatment could give a family cause to seek financial damages. An attorney who litigates medical cases could aid the effort by documenting what happened, filing an insurance claim against a medical provider or preparing a lawsuit.