Shoulder dystocia: an obstetrical emergency.


  • Joana Borges Marques Departamento de Ginecologia e Obstetrícia, Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade do Porto, Portugal.
  • Ana Reynolds



Shoulder dystocia is one of the most feared obstetric emergencies due to related maternal and neonatal complications and therefore, the growing of medico-legal litigation that it entails. Although associated with risk factors such as fetal macrossomia, gestacional diabetes and instrumented delivery, the majority of cases are unpredictable. The lack of a consensus on shoulder dystocia diagnosis causes variations on its incidence and hampers a more comprehensive analysis. Management guidelines described for its resolution include several manoeuvres but the ideal sequence of procedures is not clearly defined in more severe cases. Hands-on and team training, through simulation-based techniques applied to medicine, seems to be a promising method to learn how to deal with shoulder dystocia having in mind a reduction in related maternal or neonatal morbidity and mortality. The main goal of this paper is to provide a comprehensive revision of shoulder dystocia highlighting its relevance as an obstetric emergency. A reflection on the management is presented emphasising the importance of simulation-based training.


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How to Cite

Marques JB, Reynolds A. Shoulder dystocia: an obstetrical emergency. Acta Med Port [Internet]. 2011 Dec. 12 [cited 2023 Feb. 2];24(4):613-20. Available from:



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