Episiotomy versus fetal manipulation in managing severe shoulder dystocia: A comparison of outcomes

Edith D. Gurewitsch, Michele Donithan, Shawn P. Stallings, Patricia L. Moore, Shefali Agarwal, Leora M. Allen, Robert H. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


In severe shoulder dystocia, when initial maneuvers fail, either episiotomy or fetal manipulation (Rubin, Woods' screw, or posterior arm release) is recommended. We sought to compare maternal and neonatal outcomes between severe shoulder dystocia deliveries managed with episiotomy versus fetal manipulation. We identified severe shoulder dystocia deliveries from three databases: all shoulder dystocia deliveries (1993-2003 and 1994-1997) from two teaching institutions and litigated cases of shoulder dystocia-associated permanent brachial plexus palsy from multiple U.S. institutions. Pair-wise comparisons were made among three groups of deliveries: those managed by fetal manipulation without episiotomy (fetal manipulation-only), those managed by episiotomy without fetal manipulation (episiotomy-only), and those managed with both (episiotomy + fetal manipulation). Rates of brachial plexus palsy, neonatal depression, and anal sphincter trauma were compared among groups using χ2, with significance at P <. 05. Among episiotomy-only, 13 of 22 (59.1%) sustained brachial plexus palsy, compared with 20 of 57 (35.1%) among fetal manipulation-only (P =. 05). Twenty-eight of 48 (58.3%) in episiotomy + fetal manipulation had brachial plexus palsy, which did not differ from episiotomy-only (P =. 95) but was higher than fetal manipulation-only (P =. 02), suggesting that the addition of episiotomy conferred no benefit in averting neonatal injury. Anal sphincter trauma was significantly more common among episiotomy-only and episiotomy + fetal manipulation, compared with fetal manipulation-only. In severe shoulder dystocia, if fetal manipulation can be performed without episiotomy, severe perineal trauma can be averted without incurring greater risk of brachial plexus palsy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)911-916
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican journal of obstetrics and gynecology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Brachial plexus palsy
  • Episiotomy
  • Maneuvers
  • Perineal trauma
  • Shoulder dystocia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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