Winged scapula: an overview of pathophysiology, diagnosis and management
Intended for healthcare professionals
Evidence and practice    

Winged scapula: an overview of pathophysiology, diagnosis and management

Stephen McGhee Director of assessment and evaluation, College of Nursing, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, US
Juan Manual Gonzalez Associate professor of clinical, University of Miami – Coral Gables Campus, Miami, FL, US
Catherine Nadeau Assistant professor, College of Nursing, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, US
Dianne Morrison-Beedy Professor of nursing, College of Nursing, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, US

Why you should read this article:
  • To enhance your understanding of the pathophysiology and presentation of winged scapula

  • To acknowledge winged scapula as a potential cause of shoulder pain in patients presenting to the emergency department

  • To increase your knowledge of how scapular winging is investigated and managed

Patients commonly present to the emergency department (ED) with shoulder injuries and shoulder pain. Winged scapula is one potential underlying cause of shoulder pain which is often forgotten or ill-defined. This non-traumatic skeletal condition typically presents as a prominent protrusion of the medial border of the bone from its normal position in the back. It often results from damage to and/or compression of the long thoracic nerve, which innervates the serratus anterior muscle.

History taking, physical examination and imaging are needed to correctly diagnose winged scapula. Conservative management is often sufficient to resolve the condition. However, in some cases further investigations and more invasive treatment modalities are needed. This article provides an overview of the pathophysiology of winged scapula and its diagnosis and management in the ED.

Emergency Nurse. doi: 10.7748/en.2021.e2090

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software



Conflict of interest

None declared

McGhee S, Gonzalez JM, Nadeau C et al (2021) Winged scapula: an overview of pathophysiology, diagnosis and management. doi: 10.7748/en.2021.e2090

Acknowledgements Directorate General of Research and Development, Director of Research and Community Service, Ministry of Research, Technology and Higher Education of the Republic of Indonesia for the funding (Penelitian Dosen Pemula research fund). Professor Min-Tao Hsu, School of Nursing, Kaohsiung Medical University, Taiwan, for guidance on completing the manuscript

Published online: 23 June 2021

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