What were the complications related to your shoulder dislocation?
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What are potential complications of a shoulder dislocation?
Shoulder dislocations may be complicated by fractures of the bones that make
up the shoulder joint. Up to 25% of patients will have an associated fracture.
Not included in these numbers are the Hill-Sachs deformity that may occur in up
to 75% of anterior shoulder dislocations.
Nerve damage is a potential complication. Most often, the circumflex axillary
nerve may be injured. The first sign of injury is numbness in a small patch
distribution on the outside of the upper arm. This nerve often recovers
spontaneously in a few weeks, but this is an important complication for the
health-care provider to recognize since damage to the nerve may cause weakness
of the deltoid muscle that helps move the shoulder.
Rotator cuff injuries are commonly seen in older patients who dislocate their
shoulder. The diagnosis may be difficult to make initially and often is made in
follow-up visits with the health-care provider.
Rare complications of shoulder dislocation include tearing of the axillary
artery, the main artery that supplies blood to the arm and brachial plexus
injury, in which the nerve bundle that attaches the arm nerves to the spinal
cord is damaged. Both these structures are located in the axilla or armpit and
are potentially damaged by the initial dislocation or by attempts to reduce the
Shoulder Dislocation At A Glance
Shoulders are the most common joint in the body to dislocate.
Approximately 25% of
shoulder dislocations have associated fractures.
Closed reduction, without the
need for surgery, is the most common initial treatment. Medications may be
required for sedation to help facilitate the reduction.
Immobilization with a
sling is important to decrease the risk of a repeat dislocation. First dislocations are immobilized in an external rotation position. Recurrent dislocations may be immobilized in a regular sling.
follow-up is important to decide when to begin allowing shoulder motion.
time of immobilization varies, and balance needs to exist between shoulder
stability and loss of motion and function from prolonged immobilization.
Uncomplicated rehabilitation and healing will allow return to normal function in