Brachial palsy in newborns

Alternative Names

Klumpke paralysis; Erb-Duchenne paralysis; Erb’s palsy

Definition of Brachial palsy in newborns

Brachial palsy is a loss of movement or weakness of the arm that occurs when the collection of nerves around the shoulder are damaged during birth.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The nerves of the brachial plexus can be injured during a difficult delivery from:


Symptoms can be seen immediately or soon after birth, and may include:

Signs and tests

A physical exam usually shows that the infant is not moving the upper or lower arm or hand. The affected arm may flop when the infant is rolled from side to side.


Gentle massage of the arm and range of motion exercises are recommended for mild cases. More severe cases may need to be evaluated by several specialists.

Expectations (prognosis)

A full recovery is expected in most cases. Most infants recover within 6 months, but those that do not recover have a very poor outlook.


Kimberly G. Lee, MD, MSc, IBCLC, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Neonatology, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC. Review Provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 12/11/2009

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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