Erb’s Palsy Diagnosis

What Symptoms to Be Aware Of?

The most common symptom that you may want to be aware of is when the child’s arm is limp. In particular, it will usually only affect one side of the child. This could be an early indication that your child has this condition. If your child has a severe case, they will struggle to reach the expected developmental milestones. For example, they may miss crawling because of how they can only use one hand effectively.

How Do Doctors Diagnose This?

An Erb’s palsy diagnosis will usually involve going through a few different tests to ensure that your child truly has this birth injury. Some of the ways that the doctor will test your child include:

  • CT Scan
  • MRI Scan
  • NCS
  • X-rays
  • EMG

CT Scan

Through CT scans, doctors use a combination of computer-processed x-rays and contrasting material to understand better the body’s bones, nerves, and muscles. In some cases, the doctor might opt to do a spinal tap if he can’t get enough information, but he will usually do an MRI first.

MRI Scan

With MRI imaging, the biggest advantage of this technology comes from how it will provide you with crisp and clean scans of the body. The images are sharp and vivid, and they can often detect things like tumors and cancerous cells. In terms of Erb’s palsy, they can often tell you how much damage was done to the brachial plexus nerves. They might look to see if the nerve got torn away from the spinal cord of the child.


NCS, for short, doctors also call this nerve conduction studies. Through this system, doctors will measure how fast the electrical current passes through the nerve. Doctors like to perform this test to see how much damage was done to the individual’s nerve.


Normally, doctors will order an x-ray to determine if the child has Erb’s palsy or another condition. X-rays serve the primary purpose of looking for damage to internal organs and bones, but this can be used as a system for ruling out the possibility of broken bones before assuming a birth disorder. Most x-rays can’t tell you anything about the nerves, however.