Erb palsy is loss of motion and weakness in the arm of a newborn.
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Erb palsy happens when a baby's neck is stretched during labor and delivery. This can result in damage to the upper nerves of the neck and shoulder. The nerve damage causes muscles in the baby’s arm to be weak.
Stretching may be caused by:
Things that may raise the risk of delivering a baby with Erb palsy are:
A baby may have:
Symptoms are often noticed after a baby is born. In others, the doctor may ask about the baby's symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.
Images may need to be taken. This can be done with:
Muscle and nerve activity may need to be tested. This can be done with:
Most babies get better with time, though some weakness may remain. Physical therapy can help improve strength, flexibility, and range of motion.
Older children who are not helped by other methods may need surgery to improve function. Choices are:
There are no known guidelines to prevent this health problem.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Abzug JM, Kozin SH. Evaluation and Management of Brachial Plexus Birth Palsy. Orthop Clin North Am. 2014 Apr;45(2):225-232.
Brachial plexopathy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/brachial-plexus-birth-palsy. Accessed January 26, 2021.
Erb’s palsy. Patient UK website. Available at: http://patient.info/doctor/erbs-palsy-pro. Accessed January 26, 2021.
Erb's palsy (brachial plexus birth injury). Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00077. Accessed January 26, 2021.
Last reviewed December 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD Last Updated: 1/26/2021