Get answers to your Shoulder and Elbow questions.
A dislocation is a separation of two bones where they meet at a joint. (Joints are areas where two bones come together.) A dislocated bone is no longer in its normal position, which may result in damage to ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels.
It may be hard to tell a dislocated bone from a broken bone. Both are emergency situations and require the same first aid treatment.
Most dislocations can be treated in a physician's office or in the emergency room. You may be given medicine to make you sleepy. Sometimes general anesthesia in the operating room is needed.
Most dislocations, if treated early, will not result in permanent injury.
Once a joint has been dislocated, it is more likely to happen again. Follow-up with an orthopedic surgeon is recommended after a dislocation.
Dislocations are usually caused by a sudden impact to the joint. This usually occurs following a blow, fall, or other trauma.
A dislocated joint may be:
Nursemaid's elbow is a partial dislocation common in toddlers. The main symptom is refusal to use the arm. Nursemaid's elbow can be easily treated in a doctor's office.
Call 911 if the person has:
Preventing injuries in children:
Preventing dislocations in adults:
For all age groups:
Browner BD, Jupiter JB, Levine Am, Trafton PG, Krettek C., eds. Skeletal Trauma. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2008.
Chapman MW. Fracture healing and closed treatment of fractures and dislocations. In: Chapman MW, Szabo RM, Marder RA, Vince KG, Mann RA, Lane JM, et al, eds. Chapman's Orthopaedic Surgery. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins: 2000:chap 10.
Foley KA. Knee dislocation. In: Rosen P, Barkin RM, Hayden SR, Schaider JJ, Wolfe R, eds. Rosen and Barkin's 5-Minute Emergency Medicine Consult. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins; 2007.
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