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Brachial Plexus Birth Injury

The brachial plexus is a network of nerves near the neck that give rise to all nerves of the arm. Palsy means weakness, so therefore brachial plexus birth palsy causes arm weakness and loss of motion in newborn babies.

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Brachial Plexus Cause


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Erb’s palsy (or Erb–Duchenne palsy) is a form of brachial plexus palsy. One or two in every 1,000 babies present with this condition. It is often caused when an infant’s neck is stretched to the side during a difficult delivery.

Recovery of movement and feeling in the affected arm occurs in most cases, often with daily physio and exercises. However, parents will play an active role in helping their child recover maximum function in the affected arm.

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How can this type of injury be caused during childbirth? 

Brachial plexus injuries in newborn babies usually occurs during a very difficult delivery, often when the baby presents as large, in a breech position or following a long labour. It can also happen if a birth becomes complicated and the midwife or delivery team must deliver the baby quickly and exert some force/pressure to extract the baby from the birth canal.


Because most newborns with brachial plexus birth palsy recover on their own, a doctor will re-examine the child frequently to check on nerve recovery. Nerves tend to grow and recover very slowly, and it can in fact take up to 2 years for a recovery. There are both non-surgical and surgical treatment options for Erbs and Brachial Plexus palsy.

Non-Surgical Treatment

Daily physio sessions are the main treatment for this condition, assisted of course by the parent, as a newborn’s mobility and ability to lift limbs is extremely limited, even in a normal and healthily presenting child. Exercises will maintain motion in the shoulder, elbow, wrist and hand and this will prevent the joint from becoming permanently stiff (a condition called joint contracture.)

Surgical Treatment

A doctor may suggest surgical treatment if there has been no improvement over the first 3 to 6 months of non-surgical intervention. In microsurgery, surgeons will often use microscopes and small specialized instruments. It should be noted that nerve surgery does not typically fully restore the normal function of the affected body-part and is usually not helpful in older infants.

As with all medical negligence cases, the process can be lengthy, and it is important to take those initial first steps of gathering information, and seeking the advices of a legal representative, who can point you in the right direction as to how to deal with your potential medical negligence claim.

How We Can Help ?

Pursuing a medical negligence claims in Ireland can be daunting, especially if you are still recovering. Our experienced team of medical negligence solicitors are on hand to give advice, and advise you of all legal remedies available to you at this stressful time. Our aim is to help you through the trauma of your experience with empathy and understanding, and to ease as much of the stress associated with medical negligence claims as possible. 

If you have sustained an injury or contracted an illness due to a situation involving medical negligence and have questions surrounding an incident, please contact our Medical Negligence Solicitors today at Coleman Legal. 

Coleman Legal can help you find out if you are eligible for a compensation. If you are eligible for compensation, we will fight for you while you recover, ensuring your best interests are met and that you receive the best settlement or Court Award that is fair to you in the entirety of the circumstances.

Diane Treanor

Senior Solicitor 
(Medical Negligence Team)

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Johanna Ryan

Senior Solicitor 
(Medical Negligence Team)

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