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Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1993 Jun;168(6 Pt 1):1732-7; discussion 1737-9.

Shoulder dystocia: an analysis of risks and obstetric maneuvers.

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Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis.



The purpose of this study was to determine whether there is a risk profile for predicting or preventing shoulder dystocia and whether any of the obstetric maneuvers to disimpact a shoulder reduce the likelihood of permanent injury.


A retrospective analysis of 14,297 parturients with 12,532 vaginal deliveries and 1765 cesarean sections (12.4%) from January 1986 through June 1990 was performed. A total of 204 maternal and infant charts, related to shoulder dystocia or neonatal injury, were reviewed in depth for age, parity, episiotomy, type of delivery, hemorrhage, maternal obesity, diabetes, weight gain, fetal weight, sex, and Apgar scores. In addition, the type of maneuver or combination thereof used to relieve the dystocia, type of injury to the infant, and follow-up of the injury were reviewed.


The 185 coded episodes of shoulder dystocia represent 1.4% of all vaginal deliveries (12,532). There were 42 injuries recorded: 14 fractured clavicles and 28 brachial plexus injuries. An additional 19 patients, not coded for shoulder dystocia, sustained 14 fractured clavicles and five brachial plexus injuries. All but one of the brachial plexus injuries resolved by 6 months. The occurrence of shoulder dystocia increased in direct relationship to the birth weight and becomes significant in newborns over 4000 gm (p < 0.01). The occurrence of a previous large infant was also a significant risk factor (p < 0.01). Diabetes and midforceps delivery become significant factors only in the presence of a large fetus. Obesity, multiparity, postdate pregnancy, use of oxytocin, low forceps delivery, episiotomy, and type of anesthesia were unrelated to shoulder dystocia. No delivery method was without injury.


This study clearly indicates that most of the traditional risk factors for shoulder dystocia have no predictive value, shoulder dystocia itself is an unpredictable event, and infants at risk for permanent injury are virtually impossible to predict. In addition, no delivery method in shoulder dystocia was superior to another with respect to injury. Thus no protocol should serve to substitute for clinical judgment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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