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Shoulder Dislocation

Shoulder Dislocation is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Emergency Consult.

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  • Shoulder is a very dynamic joint, prone to injury.
  • Anterior dislocation (90–96%):
    • Injury is from direct or indirect forces on the abducted and externally rotated arm.
    • Injury may also result from a direct blow to posterolateral aspect of shoulder.
  • Posterior dislocation:
    • Often missed
    • Forces on the adducted and internally rotated arm result in posterior dislocation of humeral head in relation to glenoid fossa.
    • Most common mechanism is seizure and sudden contraction of all the posterior muscle groups.
    • Other mechanisms include electrocution and direct blow to anterior shoulder.
  • Inferior dislocation (rare):
    • Luxatio erecta
    • Hyperabduction of arm, tear of rotator cuff, and rotation of arm 180° above head
    • Commonly seen after a fall from a height:
      • Arm has struck object on descent and is thrust above the head.
    • Often accompanied by neurovascular injury and fracture

Pediatric Considerations
Dislocation is rare in children: Epiphyseal fractures must be suspected.

Geriatric Considerations
Dislocation is often accompanied by fracture.


  • Falls from height
  • Impact injuries
  • Distraction injuries of upper arm
  • Seizures
  • Electrocution

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Rosen, Peter, et al., editors. "Shoulder Dislocation." 5-Minute Emergency Consult, 5th ed., Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2016. Emergency Central, emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307095/all/Shoulder_Dislocation.
Shoulder Dislocation. In: Rosen P, Shayne P, Barkin AZ, et al, eds. 5-Minute Emergency Consult. 5th ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016. https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307095/all/Shoulder_Dislocation. Accessed April 24, 2019.
Shoulder Dislocation. (2016). In Rosen, P., Shayne, P., Barkin, A. Z., Wolfe, R. E., Hayden, S. R., Barkin, R. M., & Schaider, J. J. (Eds.), 5-Minute Emergency Consult. Available from https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307095/all/Shoulder_Dislocation
Shoulder Dislocation [Internet]. In: Rosen P, Shayne P, Barkin AZ, Wolfe RE, Hayden SR, Barkin RM, Schaider JJ, editors. 5-Minute Emergency Consult. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016. [cited 2019 April 24]. Available from: https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307095/all/Shoulder_Dislocation.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Shoulder Dislocation ID - 307095 ED - Rosen,Peter, ED - Shayne,Philip, ED - Barkin,Adam Z, ED - Wolfe,Richard E, ED - Hayden,Stephen R, ED - Barkin,Roger M, ED - Schaider,Jeffrey J, BT - 5-Minute Emergency Consult UR - https://emergency.unboundmedicine.com/emergency/view/5-Minute_Emergency_Consult/307095/all/Shoulder_Dislocation PB - Lippincott Williams & Wilkins ET - 5 DB - Emergency Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -