What are the treatment options?
Treatment for Erb’s Palsy or Brachial Plexus injuries
It is essential that treatment for a Brachial Plexus injury be obtained as soon as possible from experienced medical professionals who specialize in treating Brachial Plexus injuries. Early treatment for Brachial Plexus injuries most likely will include occupational and/or physical therapy to help maximize use of the affected arm while preventing contractures (tightening of the muscles and joints). It is important to note that even with ongoing therapy treatment and surgical intervention, complete recovery from a Brachial Plexus injury may not occur.
What can be expected with treatment?
Most mild cases of Brachial Plexus injuries recover in 3 to 4 months. The more severe cases improve slowly over 18 to 21 months. By 2 years of age, any recovery that will occur should have occurred, and no further improvement is expected. Treatment consists of Physical Therapy and Surgery.
Therapy for Brachial Plexus Injuries
An occupational or physical therapist will work with your child. The therapist will also help you (the parent) learn to do the exercises. Most parents need to do the range of motion exercises at home with their children two to three times a day for several years.
Daily exercises are recommended to help keep the muscles and joints moving normally. They are called range of motion exercises.
1. Provide tactile stimulation to provide sensory awareness
2. Use exercise to develop strength.
3. Most exercises include tasks to increase flexibility, strength and feeling.
If your child is not able to use muscles in the arm and hand, these muscles will stay weak. The arm may not grow normally, and your child may feel tightness in some muscles and joints. A joint that stays in the same position all the time can actually “freeze”. Exercises keep the muscles and joints flexible. When the nerves start working better, the muscles and joints will be ready to work.
Surgery for Brachial Plexus Injuries
Surgery may help children who do not recover by the age of 5 months. Nerve surgery is most effective when it is done between the ages of 5 and 12 months and becomes less effective after 1 year. Nevertheless, surgical correction for permanent disability or deformity can be performed in the school-aged child where necessary.
For some children, neurosurgery is not recommended or is not successful. In these instances, other procedures can be done to transfer muscles and tendons. This surgery is done by a plastic surgeon when the child is older.
Paying for medical care
The costs for treatment and surgery could overwhelm most families. Families must be able to dedicate long hours to doctor’s visits and treatment. Financial support may be available to families in the form of legal compensation.