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Dislocations: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About dislocations

Dislocation of a joint occurs when there is partial or total loss of contact between two bony surfaces forming the joint. Joints which get dislocated commonly, are the shoulder, the fingers, patella and the elbow. Certain dislocations like those of vertebrae can cause serious neurological complications and can be potentially life-threatening.

Dislocations: Incidence, age and sex

Joint dislocations may occur at any age. Small children are especially prone to dislocation of the elbow. Recurrent shoulder dislocation is a common condition, especially seen in young men.

Signs and symptoms of dislocations: Diagnosis

Joint dislocations usually cause pain at the affected joint. There may be swelling and abnormal configuration of the affected joint. There is severe restriction of the joint movement. Dislocations of vertebrae in the neck may cause paralysis and respiratory difficulty.

Diagnosis is made by X-ray of the affected joint. In vertebral dislocations, computerised tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans may be needed.

Causes and prevention of dislocations

Joint dislocations are most commonly caused by trauma in the form of a blow or a fall. Certain diseases of joints like rheumatoid arthritis also predispose to dislocations. Certain disorders like Ehlers Danlos syndrome and Marfan’s syndrome increase the joint laxity and may cause dislocations.

After a dislocation, further dislocation can be prevented by strengthening the muscles and ligaments. This is achieved by regular physiotherapy.

Dislocations: Complications

Dislocations cause limitation of joint movement and if not treated timely, they may cause joints to become fixed in abnormal positions. Certain dislocations like those of the ankle may compromise the blood supply and result in gangrene. Vertebral dislocations are especially dangerous as they may cause paralysis, respiratory distress and even death if there is brain herniation.

Dislocations: Treatment

The first step in the treatment of dislocations is to ensure that person’s heart rate, respiration and blood pressure are stable. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation may be needed if there is severe blood loss or in vertebral dislocations. In injuries of cervical spine, care should be taken not to move the patient till expert help is available. The dislocated joint needs reduction which is usually done under sedation. General anesthesia may be needed especially in children.