Joint dislocation is a complete separation of 2 articulating bony surfaces, often caused by a sudden impact to the joint.
Although any joint may become dislocated, common sites include the shoulder, finger, patella, elbow, and hip.
X-rays are usually taken to confirm a diagnosis and detect any fractures that may have occurred concomitantly at the time of dislocation.
Treatment is usually closed reduction, as soon as possible, to decrease potential complications, which may include soft tissue injury, articular surface injury, and neurovascular compromise.
A joint dislocation is a complete separation of 2 articulating bony surfaces, often caused by a sudden impact to the joint. A partial or incomplete dislocation is called a subluxation. Although any joint may become dislocated, common sites include the shoulder, finger, patella, elbow, and hip.
History and exam
Key diagnostic factors
- presence of risk factors
- characteristic posturing of joint
- inability to move joint
- normal neurological function of shoulder and elbow
- sciatic nerve injury with hip dislocation
- injury to the femoral artery, vein, or nerve with hip dislocation
- concomitant injury with hip dislocation
- cruciate ligament injury with patellar dislocation
- meniscal tears with patellar dislocation
- ligamentous injuries of the knee with patellar dislocation
- patellar or quadriceps tendon rupture with patellar dislocation
Other diagnostic factors
- ecchymosis with finger dislocation
- haemarthrosis with patellar dislocation
- sports-related activities
- motor vehicle accident
- ligamentous laxity
- Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
- males between adolescence and 30 years of age
- women aged 61 to 80 years
- prior history of joint instability
- skeletal or muscular dysplasia
- high Q angle
- external tibial torsion
- patella alta
1st investigations to order
- plain x-rays of the shoulder
- plain x-rays of the finger
- plain x-rays of the knee
- plain x-rays of the elbow
- plain x-rays of the pelvis
Investigations to consider
- MRI scan of the knee
- MRI scan of the shoulder
- CT scan of the elbow
- CT scan of the pelvis
- arteriogram of the knee or shoulder
Thomas M. DeBerardino, MD
The San Antonio Orthopaedic Group
TMD is a paid consultant and receives royalties from Arthrex, Inc. He serves on the Data Management Committee for Aesculap and is a paid consultant for Arthrex, Inc. and Emovi. TMD declares that none of these relationships relate to this topic.
Dr Thomas M. DeBerardino would like to gratefully acknowledge Dr Paul Novakovich and Dr Brent Ponce, previous contributors to this topic. PN and BP declare that they have no competing interests.
Daniel J. Solomon, MD
Co-director of Orthopedic Sports and Shoulder Service
Department of Orthopedic Surgery
Naval Medical Center San Diego
DJS declares that he has no competing interests.
Matthew T. Provencher, MD
Orthopaedic Shoulder and Sports Surgery
Naval Medical Center San Diego
MTP declares that he has no competing interests.
Peter Cundy, MBBS, FRACS
Head of Orthopaedic Surgery
Women's & Children's Hospital
PC declares that he has no competing interests.
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