Shoulder dystocia and injuries: prevention and management

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Purpose of reviewShoulder dystocia is an obstetric emergency that is often unpredictable and unanticipated. Despite the identification of various clinical risk factors, our ability to predict and prevent shoulder dystocia is very limited. Effective and timely clinical management is essential to offer the best chance of a satisfactory outcome.Recent findingsUpon diagnosis of the condition, a team working in tandem to resolve the problem is very effective. Use of the McRoberts maneuver, application of suprapubic pressure, with an adequate episiotomy allow resolution of over 50% of cases, with a low risk of fetal injury. Secondary maneuvers include rotation of the shoulders and delivery of the posterior shoulder. These are technically more challenging and may be associated with a higher risk of fetal injury. More drastic action may be considered in dire cases where even secondary maneuvers fail. These include the Zavanelli maneuver, symphysiotomy or iatrogenic clavicular fracture. These techniques, while seldom required, may be lifesaving in extremely severe cases.SummaryUpon resolution of the clinical event, it is essential to document the entire event, and to discuss the clinical problem and management with the parents. These actions will reduce the risk of medical litigation, and improve patient satisfaction with clinical care.

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