Winged scapula: an overview of pathophysiology, diagnosis and management

Stephen McGhee, Juan Manual Gonzalez, Catherine Nadeau, Dianne Morrison-Beedy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22-26
Number of pages5
JournalEmergency nurse : the journal of the RCN Accident and Emergency Nursing Association
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 31 2021


  • clinical skills
  • diagnosis
  • diagnostic criteria
  • diagnostic tests
  • differential diagnosis
  • emergency care
  • nursing care
  • professional
  • signs and symptoms
  • trauma
  • X-rays

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency


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