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Joint dislocation

A dislocation is a separation of two bones where they meet at a joint. Joints are areas where two bones come together. A dislocated joint is a joint where the bones are no longer in their normal positions.

Considerations

It may be hard to tell a dislocated joint from a broken bone. Both are emergencies. You will need the same first aid treatment.

Most dislocations can be treated in a doctor's office or emergency room. You may be given medicine to make you sleepy and to numb the area. Sometimes, general anesthesia in the operating room is needed.

When treated early, most dislocations do not cause 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.

Causes

Dislocations are usually caused by a sudden impact to the joint. This usually occurs following a blow, fall, or other trauma.

Symptoms

A dislocated joint may be:

Nursemaid's elbow is a partial dislocation that is common in toddlers. The main symptom is the child's refusal to use the arm. Nursemaid's elbow can be easily treated in a doctor's office.

First Aid

  1. Call 132 before you begin treating someone who may have a dislocation, especially if the accident that caused the injury may be life-threatening.
  2. If the person has a serious injury, check their airway, breathing, and circulation. If necessary, begin rescue breathing, CPR, or bleeding control.
  3. Do not move the person if you think that their head, back, or leg has been injured. Keep the person still. Provide reassurance.
  4. If the skin is broken, take steps to prevent infection. Do not blow on the wound. Rinse the area gently to remove any dirt you can see, but do not scrub or probe. Cover the area with sterile dressings before immobilizing the injured joint (see next step).
  5. Splint or sling the injured joint in the position in which you found it. Do not move the joint. Also immobilize the area above and below the injured area.
  6. Check the person's blood circulation around the injury by pressing firmly on the skin in the affected area. It should turn white, then regain color within a couple of seconds after you stop pressing on it. To reduce the risk of infection, do not do this step if the skin is broken.
  7. Apply ice packs to ease pain and swelling, but do not put ice directly on the skin. Wrap the ice in a clean cloth.
  8. Take steps to prevent shock. Unless there is a head, leg, or back injury, lay the victim flat, elevate their feet about 12 inches, and cover the person with a coat or blanket.

Do Not

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call 132 if the person has:

Prevention

To help prevent injuries in children:

To help prevent dislocations in adults:

For all age groups:

References
  • Boss SE, Mehta A, Maddow C, Luber SD. Critical orthopedic skills and procedures. Emergency Medicine Clinics of North America. W.B. Saunders. Feb 2013;31(1).
  • Browner BD, Jupiter JB, Levine Am, Trafton PG, Krettek C., eds. Skeletal Trauma. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008.
  • Calandruccio JH. Fractures, dislocations, and ligamentous injuries. In: Canale ST, Beaty JH. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2013:chap 67.
  • 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.
  • Horn AE, Ufberg JW. Management of Common Dislocations. In: Roberts JR, Custalow CB, Thomsen TW, Hedges JR, eds. Roberts & Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 49.
  • Klimke A, Furin M. Prehospital Immobilization. In: Roberts JR, Hedges JR, eds.Roberts & Hedges' Clinical Procedures in Emergency Medicine. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 46.
  • Mascioli AA. Acute disclocations. In: Canale ST, Beaty JH. Campbell's Operative Orthopaedics. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 60.
  • http://hendrick-medical.adam.com/content.aspx?productId=117&isArticleLink=false&pid=1&gid=000014 accessed on 08.08.2015

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Jane and I wanted to thank you so much for the care you and your colleagues took of Jane whist in Mauritius. Everything went well and Prakash did a great job of getting us to your clinic and back over the 6 dialysis days. We had a wonderful holiday and our children and grandchildren plus the other family all enjoyed it enormously. Best wishes to you all

Andrew and Jane Stewart
17.04.2017