• Erb’s Palsy

    (Erb-Duchenne Paralysis; Brachial Plexus Palsy)

    Definition

    Erb’s palsy weakness or paralysis in the arm that is usually noticed after birth.
    Vaginal Birth
    nucleus factsheet image
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

    Causes

    Erb’s palsy is caused by stretching of the baby’s neck during labor and delivery. This can result in damage to the upper nerves of the neck and shoulder. The nerve damage can then cause certain muscles in the baby’s arm to be weak.
    Stretching may be caused by:
    • Long, difficult delivery
    • Delivery of a large baby
    • Shoulder dystocia
    • Breech delivery

    Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your chance of delivering a baby with Erb’s palsy include:

    Symptoms

    Often, Erb’s palsy is discovered after birth due to the typical signs and symptoms, such as:

    Diagnosis

    You may be asked about your baby's symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Other tests may include:
    Your baby may need imaging tests. This can be done with:
    Your baby may need to have muscle and nerve activity recorded. This can be done with:

    Treatment

    Over time, the baby can recover movement. Feeling in the arm can also be recovered. In some cases, long-lasting damage can occur.
    Talk with the doctor about the best treatment plan, which may include:
    • Physical therapy—This can help keep your baby’s joints and muscles flexible and strong. You will take an active role in moving your baby’s shoulder, arm, and hand. Massage may also be an option.
    • Surgery—This may be recommended in cases where there is no improvement.
    When your child is older, other treatments may be recommended, such as:
    • Muscle and tendon transfer surgery to improve function
    • Joint fusion surgery

    Prevention

    To help reduce your baby’s chance of Erb’s palsy:
    • Have regular prenatal care visits.
    • Tell your doctor if you have had previous difficult deliveries.
    • Follow your doctor's instructions if you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes.

    RESOURCES

    Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians http://familydoctor.org

    Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons http://orthoinfo.org

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://www.coa-aco.org

    Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada http://www.sogc.org

    References

    Brachial plexopathy. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T900412/Brachial-plexopathy. Updated June 12, 2015. Accessed September 29, 2016.

    Erb’s palsy. Patient UK website. Available at: http://patient.info/doctor/erbs-palsy-pro. Accessed January 12, 2014. Updated December 1, 2014.

    Erb's palsy (brachial plexus birth injury). American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00077. Updated October 2014. Accessed December 1, 2014.

    Revision Information

  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.


  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.