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Joint dislocation

Last reviewed: 30 Oct 2023
Last updated: 17 May 2022



History and exam

Key diagnostic factors

  • characteristic posturing of joint
  • pain
  • inability to move joint
  • tenderness
  • swelling
  • normal neurologic 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
More key diagnostic factors

Other diagnostic factors

  • ecchymosis with finger dislocation
  • hemarthrosis with patellar dislocation
Other diagnostic factors

Risk factors

  • sports-related activities
  • motor vehicle accident
  • ligamentous laxity
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • males between adolescence and 30 years of age
  • women ages 61 to 80 years
  • prior history of joint instability
  • skeletal or muscular dysplasia
  • high Q angle
  • external tibial torsion
  • patella alta
More risk factors

Diagnostic investigations

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
More 1st investigations to order

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
More investigations to consider

Treatment algorithm


shoulder dislocation

finger dislocation

patellar dislocation

elbow dislocation

hip dislocation



Thomas M. DeBerardino, MD

The San Antonio Orthopaedic Group

San Antonio



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.

Peer reviewers

Daniel J. Solomon, MD

Co-director of Orthopedic Sports and Shoulder Service

Department of Orthopedic Surgery

Naval Medical Center San Diego

San Diego



DJS declares that he has no competing interests.

Matthew T. Provencher, MD

Assistant Director

Orthopaedic Shoulder and Sports Surgery

Naval Medical Center San Diego

San Diego



MTP declares that he has no competing interests.

Peter Cundy, MBBS, FRACS

Head of Orthopaedic Surgery

Women's & Children's Hospital


South Australia



PC declares that he has no competing interests.

  • Joint dislocation images
  • Differentials

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    • Distal clavicle fracture
    • Acromioclavicular joint separation
    More Differentials
  • Guidelines

    • ACR appropriateness criteria: osteonecrosis
    • ACR appropriateness criteria: acute trauma to the knee
    More Guidelines
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