Four Nerve Injuries That Lead to Erb’s Palsy

Four Nerve Injuries That Lead to Erb’s Palsy

One in three of every 1,000 babies born each year will suffer from a brachial plexus injury. In most cases, the injury is not one that will be with them the rest of their life.

The brachial plexus is the network of nerves between the neck and shoulders that control muscles in your shoulders, arms, hands and chest.

If this network of nerves is stretched, compressed or torn during delivery, the result could mean paralysis or loss of muscle function. The condition caused by this nerve damage is commonly called Erbs Palsy.

Where the injury occurs will affect different muscle functions. For example, injuries to the upper brachial plexus affect the shoulder and elbow muscles, while those in the lower nerve network can affect muscles of the forearm and hand.

There are four types of nerve damage injuries that occur in Erb’s Palsy.

1. A Stretch or Neurapraxia

This is the most common form of brachial plexus injury. It occurs outside of the spinal cord when the nerve is stretched. The affected nerves can recover on their own within the first three months of a baby’s life.

2. A Rupture

Also a common nerve injury in infants, a rupture happens when a nerve is torn during delivery. The nerve injury is typically not located where the nerve attaches to the spinal cord. Surgery may be needed to repair the rupture.

3. An Avulsion

An avulsion is the most severe nerve injury. It occurs when the nerve roots are actually torn from the spinal cord. It occurs in 10 to 20 percent of cases. This type of injury can’t be repaired through surgery. The damaged tissue and nerves must actually be surgically replaced. If the damaged nerve is attached to the diaphragm, the infant may have trouble breathing.

Horner’s syndrome is an avulsion injury that affects the face and eyes. It can result in drooping eyelids, small pupils or reduced sweat production on the face.

4. A Neuroma

A neuroma is a severe injury that damages nerve fibers. As the damage heals, the scar tissue presses against a nerve and interferes with its function. Nerve reconstruction surgery or secondary tendon transfers may be needed to relieve the condition. In many cases, however, only partial recovery is expected.

In most cases, Erb’s palsy is not a lifelong sentence. With the proper physical therapy, minor injuries will heal themselves. The majority of infants born with a brachial plexus injury will recover within three to nine months.

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