Signs of Erb’s Palsy

Signs that a baby has experienced a brachial plexus injury are apparent immediately or soon after birth. Observable symptoms of an Erb’s palsy birth injury include a motionless arm, a lack of spontaneous movement in the upper or lower arm or hand, decreased grip on the affected side and an absence of the Moro reflex (a startled reaction when support is briefly removed from the baby’s head).

If the baby’s eyelid on the affected side is droopy, this may indicate a more serious brachial plexus injury.

Difficulty of an accurate diagnosis
Because the severity of a brachial plexus injury is difficult to accurately diagnose from just observing the newborn, a doctor will most likely order further tests.

An X-ray or MRI is usually performed to check for injury to the neck bones and joints. This can also rule out a broken collarbone, which can cause symptoms similar to Erb’s palsy. An electromyogram or nerve construction study may also be done to check for the presence of nerve signals in the upper arm.

Stretch injuries usually heal
Stretch injuries, the most common type of Erb’s palsy injury, usually heal without any external aid. Because of this, a doctor will want to re-examine the baby at one month and three months to check for signs of recovery. About 90% of babies born with a brachial plexus injury will recover on their own. If recovery does not occur within a three-month period, a doctor may wish to conduct further tests in order to decide about surgical treatments for the brachial plexus injury.

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