Other Known Aliases – none
Definition – paralysis of the upper extremity from an upper trunk injury classically effecting C5-C6.
Clinical Significance – this brachial plexopathy is most commonly associated with birth trauma from a shoulder dystocia and depending on the severity of the injury, can resolve on its own or be permanent. The arm is classically internally rotated, with an extended and pronated forearm referred to as the “waiter’s tip” or “porter’s tip” sign.
History – Named after Wilhelm Heinrich Erb (1840-1921), a German neurologist who received his medical doctorate from the the University of Heidelberg in 1864. He would spend his early career assisting Nikolaus Friedreich and Ludwig von Buhl in Munich, before becoming chair of the pathology department at the University of Leipzig in 1880, and ultimately succeeding Friedreich in 1883. He is credited with popularizing the reflex hammer use in neurologic examinations and would be instrumental in identifying and describing myasthenia gravis, tabes dorsalis, and his eponymous point in the brachial plexus where this injury arises. Of note, he is also credited with the cardiac auscultation point where the S2 is best heard.
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