posterior dislocation of the shoulder

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Posterior dislocation (or glenohumeral dislocation) is an injury where the humeral head is forced posteriorly relative to the glenoid (1).

  • less common than anterior dislocation
    • accounts for 2%–4% of all types of shoulder dislocations 
    • bilateral posterior dislocations are even more rare and accounts for 5%–15% of all posterior dislocations
  • usually results from an epileptic seizures, electrical shock and extreme trauma
  • mechanism of injury - forced internal rotation, flexion and adduction of the shoulder
  • they may become recurrent especially if the patient has generalised ligamentous laxity

In an audit carried out on 120 posterior shoulder dislocations:

  • posterior dislocations were common in men between the ages of 20-49 years
  • 67% were caused by traumatic events while seizures were responsible for 31% of cases (1)

Posterior dislocations can be classified into:

  • acute - if identified within three weeks of injury
  • chronic – identified after three weeks of injury
    • when compared to acute dislocation, it is often less painful and have a greater range of motion (1)


Last reviewed 01/2018