Wisconsin Erb’s Palsy Attorneys

representing victims of medical malpractice

Working with us on Erb’s Palsy Injury Cases

Erb’s palsy is a form of brachial plexus palsy. It is named for one of the doctors who first described this condition, Wilhelm Erb.  Erb’s palsy injuries typically occur when a newborn’s shoulder gets stuck behind the mother’s pelvic bone, causing the brachial plexus to become compressed, pulled or torn.  An experienced obstetrician should be able to determine risks that will increase the likelihood of a child being born with Erb’s Palsy and should take steps to avoid these types of birth injuries during delivery.

Birth Injury in Wisconsin

In most cases of brachial plexus birth palsy, it is the upper nerves that are affected. This is known as Erb’s palsy. The infant may not be able to move the shoulder, but may be able to move the fingers. If both the upper and lower nerves are stretched, the condition is usually more severe than Erb’s palsy. This is called a “global,” or total, brachial plexus birth palsy.

If any of the following risk factors are present, the child is delivered vaginally, and has a brachial plexus injury, the doctor may be liable.  Do not wait to contact our birth injury lawyers if your child was born with a brachial plexus and you believe that it could have been prevented.

Risk Factors

  • An extended pregnancy (lasting more than 40 weeks)
  • High birth-weight babies
  • Mothers with diabetes
  • Short maternal stature
  • Overweight mothers
  • A protracted second stage of labor
  • A contracted or flat pelvis


  • Arm flexed at elbow and held against the body
  • Decreased grip on the affected side
  • Absent Moro reflex on the affected side
  • Lack of spontaneous movement in the upper or lower arm or hand

Diagnosis of Erb’s Palsy

Erb’s palsy is typically diagnosed after observing weakness of the arm. Your child’s pediatrician may order an x-ray or other imaging studies to determine if there is any damage to the neck and shoulder’s bones.  Tests such as electromyologram (EMG) or a nerve conduction study (NCS) may be used to determine whether nerve signals are working properly in the upper arm muscles.

Treatment of Erb’s Palsy

Because most newborns with Erb’s palsy recover on their own, your pediatrician will re-examine your child frequently to see if the nerves are recovering. It may take up to 2 years for complete recovery.


Routine physical therapy is the main treatment method for Erb’s palsy.  Daily physical therapy and range of motion exercises may begin when a baby is about 3 weeks old. The exercises will maintain the range of motion in the shoulder, elbow, wrist, and hand. This will prevent the joint from becoming permanently stiff — a condition called joint contracture.


If there is no change over the first 3 to 6 months, your doctor may suggest exploratory surgery to improve the potential outcome. Nerve surgery will not restore normal function, and is usually not helpful for older infants. Because nerves recover very slowly, it may take several months, or even years, for nerves repaired at the neck to reach the muscles of the lower arm and hand.

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