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October 1969

Erb's Palsy

Author Affiliations

Durham, NC
From the Divisions of Neurosurgery and Neurology, Duke University Medical Center and the Durham Veterans Administration Hospital, Durham, NC.

Arch Neurol. 1969;21(4):442. doi:10.1001/archneur.1969.00480160114014

ERB'S description of paralysis of the upper portion of the brachial plexus is remembered mainly for its postscript. As an after-thought to his discussion, Erb noted that birth trauma is one of the causes of such paralysis, and the term Erb's (or more properly Duchenne-Erb's) palsy now usually refers to this phenomenon.

Wilhelm Heinrich Erb (1840 to 1921) was the foremost German neurologist of his time and the first neurologist to wield a reflex hammer.1 His original account of the tendon reflexes2 advanced the art of neurologic diagnosis and was a great stimulus to physiologic research. Erb also pioneered in applying electrodiagnosis and electrotherapy to neurology, and it was he who first described the "reaction of degeneration" of muscle.3 Not the least of Erb's accomplishments was his successful campaign to introduce neurologic instruction into the curriculum at Heidelberg.4 He thus gained a place