Anterior shoulder dislocation

Anterior shoulder dislocation is by far the commonest type of dislocation and usually results from forced abduction, external rotation and extension 1

Broadly speaking, anterior shoulder dislocations occur in a bimodal age distribution. The first, and by far the more prevalent age group are young adult men who have sustained high-energy injuries to the shoulder. The second group is older patients who have been injured with a much lower level of violence. In older patients, the dislocation usually proves to be an isolated event 3.

  • flattened: shallow anterior/anteroinferior glenoid bony contour: may predispose to recurrent dislocations 5

Anterior dislocations can be further divided according to where the humeral head comes to lie:

  • subcoracoid: most common
  • subglenoid
  • subclavicular
  • intrathoracic: very rare

In anterior dislocations, the humeral head comes to lie anterior, medial and somewhat inferior to its normal location and glenoid fossa.

Anterior shoulder dislocations are usually managed with closed reduction and a period of immobilisation (e.g. 6 weeks) to allow adequate capsular healing, although whether this significantly changes the likelihood of recurrent dislocation is not certain 4. The key to successful healing and normal eventual function is a structured course of physical therapy aimed at reducing muscle wasting and maintaining mobility. The emphasis, especially early on, is on isometric exercises, which the glenohumeral joint remains immobilised 4.   

Surgical repair is not required for dislocation per se, but rather to treat complications and associated injuries which include: 

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Article information

rID: 12341
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Anterior dislocation of the shoulder
  • Anterior shoulder dislocations
  • Anterior dislocations of the shoulder
  • Anterior dislocation of shoulder

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    Case 2: bilateral
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    Case 9: with fracture of greater tuberosity
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