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Joint dislocation
Other namesLatin: luxatio
A traumatic dislocation of the tibiotarsal joint of the ankle with distal fibular fracture. Open arrow marks the tibia and the closed arrow marks the talus.
SpecialtyOrthopedic surgery Edit this on Wikidata

A joint dislocation, also called luxation, occurs when there is an abnormal separation in the joint, where two or more bones meet.[1] A partial dislocation is referred to as a subluxation. Dislocations are often caused by sudden trauma on the joint like an impact or fall. A joint dislocation can cause damage to the surrounding ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves.[2] Dislocations can occur in any major joint (shoulder, knees, etc.) or minor joint (toes, fingers, etc.). The most common joint dislocation is a shoulder dislocation.[1]

Treatment for joint dislocation is usually by closed reduction, that is, skilled manipulation to return the bones to their normal position. Reduction should only be performed by trained medical professionals, because it can cause injury to soft tissue and/or the nerves and vascular structures around the dislocation.[3]

Symptoms and signs

The following symptoms are common with any type of dislocation.[1]


Joint dislocations are caused by trauma to the joint or when an individual falls on a specific joint.[4] Great and sudden force applied, by either a blow or fall, to the joint can cause the bones in the joint to be displaced or dislocated from normal position.[5] With each dislocation, the ligaments keeping the bones fixed in the correct position can be damaged or loosened, making it easier for the joint to be dislocated in the future.[6]

Some individuals are prone to dislocations due to congenital conditions, such as hypermobility syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Hypermobility syndrome is genetically inherited disorder that is thought to affect the encoding of the connective tissue protein’s collagen in the ligament of joints.[7] The loosened or stretched ligaments in the joint provide little stability and allow for the joint to be easily dislocated.[1]


Initial evaluation of a suspected joint dislocation should begin with a thorough patient history, including mechanism of injury, and physical examination. Special attention should be focused on the neurovascular exam both before and after reduction, as injury to these structures may occur during the injury or during the reduction process.[3] Subsequent imaging studies are frequently obtained to assist with diagnosis.


A dislocated joint usually can be successfully reduced into its normal position only by a trained medical professional. Trying to reduce a joint without any training could substantially worsen the injury.[15]

X-rays are usually taken to confirm a diagnosis and detect any fractures which may also have occurred at the time of dislocation. A dislocation is easily seen on an X-ray.[16]

Once a diagnosis is confirmed, the joint is usually manipulated back into position. This can be a very painful process, therefore this is typically done either in the emergency department under sedation or in an operating room under a general anaesthetic.[17]

It is important the joint is reduced as soon as possible, as in the state of dislocation, the blood supply to the joint (or distal anatomy) may be compromised. This is especially true in the case of a dislocated ankle, due to the anatomy of the blood supply to the foot.[18]

Shoulder injuries can also be surgically stabilized, depending on the severity, using arthroscopic surgery.[16] The most common treatment method for a dislocation of the Glenohumeral Joint (GH Joint/Shoulder Joint) is exercise based management.[19] Another method of treatment is to place the injured arm in a sling or in another immobilizing device in order to keep the joint stable.[20] A 2012 Cochrane review, found no statistically significant difference in healing or long-term joint mobility between simple shoulder dislocations treated conservatively versus surgically.[21]

Some joints are more at risk of becoming dislocated again after an initial injury. This is due to the weakening of the muscles and ligaments which hold the joint in place. The shoulder is a prime example of this. Any shoulder dislocation should be followed up with thorough physiotherapy.[16]

On field reduction is crucial for joint dislocations. As they are extremely common in sports events, managing them correctly at the game at the time of injury, can reduce long term issues. They require prompt evaluation, diagnosis, reduction, and postreduction management before the person can be evaluated at a medical facility.[20]

After care

After a dislocation, injured joints are usually held in place by a splint (for straight joints like fingers and toes) or a bandage (for complex joints like shoulders). Additionally, the joint muscles, tendons and ligaments must also be strengthened. This is usually done through a course of physiotherapy, which will also help reduce the chances of repeated dislocations of the same joint.[22]

For glenohumeral instability, the therapeutic program depends on specific characteristics of the instability pattern, severity, recurrence and direction with adaptations made based on the needs of the patient. In general, the therapeutic program should focus on restoration of strength, normalization of range of motion and optimization of flexibility and muscular performance. Throughout all stages of the rehabilitation program, it is important to take all related joints and structures into consideration.[23]



See also


  1. ^ a b c d Dislocations. Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford. Retrieved 3 March 2013. [1] Archived 28 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Smith, R. L., & Brunolli, J. J. (1990). Shoulder kinesthesia after anterior glenohumeral joint dislocation. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 11(11), 507–513.
  3. ^ a b Skelley NW, McCormick JJ, Smith MV (May 2014). "In-game Management of Common Joint Dislocations". Sports Health. 6 (3): 246–255. doi:10.1177/1941738113499721. PMC 4000468. PMID 24790695.
  4. ^ Mayo Clinic: Finger Dislocation Joint Reduction
  5. ^ U.S. National Library of Medicine – Dislocation
  6. ^ Pubmed Health: Dislocation – Joint dislocation
  7. ^ Ruemper, A. & Watkins, K. (2012). Correlations between general joint hypermobility and joint hypermobility syndrome and injury in contemporary dance students. Journal of Dance Medicine & Science, 16(4): 161–166.
  8. ^ Chong M, Karataglis D, Learmonth D (September 2006). "Survey of the Management of Acute Traumatic First-Time Anterior Shoulder Dislocation Among Trauma Clinicians in the UK". Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. 88 (5): 454–458. doi:10.1308/003588406X117115. ISSN 0035-8843. PMC 1964698. PMID 17002849.
  9. ^ Gaillard F. "Acromioclavicular injury | Radiology Reference Article |". Retrieved 21 February 2018.
  10. ^ "Introduction to Trauma X-ray - Dislocation injury". Retrieved 15 February 2018.
  11. ^ Abbasi S, Molaie H, Hafezimoghadam P, Zare MA, Abbasi M, Rezai M, Farsi D (August 2013). "Diagnostic accuracy of ultrasonographic examination in the management of shoulder dislocation in the emergency department". Annals of Emergency Medicine. 62 (2): 170–175. doi:10.1016/j.annemergmed.2013.01.022. ISSN 1097-6760. PMID 23489654.
  12. ^ Heers G, Hedtmann A (2005). "Correlation of ultrasonographic findings to Tossy's and Rockwood's classification of acromioclavicular joint injuries". Ultrasound in Medicine & Biology. 31 (6): 725–732. doi:10.1016/j.ultrasmedbio.2005.03.002. PMID 15936487.
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  16. ^ a b c Dias, J., Steingold, R., Richardson, R., Tesfayohannes, B., Gregg, P. (1987). The conservative treatment of acromioclavicular dislocation. British Editorial Society of Bone and Joint Surgery. 69(5): 719–722.
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  21. ^ Taylor F, Sims M, Theis JC, Herbison GP (18 April 2012). Cochrane Bone, Joint and Muscle Trauma Group (ed.). "Interventions for treating acute elbow dislocations in adults". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2012 (4): CD007908. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD007908.pub2. PMC 6465046. PMID 22513954.
  22. ^ Itoi, E., Hatakeyama, Y., Kido, T., Sato, T., Minagawa, H., Wakabayashi, I., Kobayashi, M. (2003). Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery. 12(5): 413–415.
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  29. ^ Elbow Dislocation
  30. ^ "Carpal dislocations". Archived from the original on 24 December 2014. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
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  38. ^ For a graphic representation of displacements that may lead to a total talar dislocation see: Robert W. Bucholz (29 March 2012). Rockwood and Green's Fractures in Adults: Two Volumes Plus Integrated Content Website (Rockwood, Green, and Wilkins' Fractures). Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. p. 2061. ISBN 978-1-4511-6144-1.
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