UMass Chan Medical School Faculty Publications


Proximal humeral fracture-dislocations: which patterns can be reduced in the emergency department

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Orthopedics and Physical Rehabilitation

Publication Date


Document Type



Emergency Medicine | Musculoskeletal Diseases | Orthopedics


BACKGROUND: Shoulder fracture-dislocations can represent a challenging management scenario in the emergency department (ED) because of concern for the presence of occult fractures that may displace during a reduction attempt. The alternative, a closed reduction attempt in the operating room, has the benefit of full paralysis but requires additional resource utilization. There is limited guidance in the literature about the risks of an initial reduction attempt in the ED as a function of fracture pattern to help guide physicians with this decision.

METHODS: This was a retrospective case review of adult patients with shoulder dislocations and fracture-dislocations seen in the ED at a level 1 trauma center over a 10-year period. Imaging and medical records were reviewed to evaluate whether the reduction attempt was successful, unsuccessful without worsening, or unsuccessful with worsening alignment of any fractures, as well as the ultimate clinical outcome.

RESULTS: We identified 165 patients with fracture-dislocations and 484 patients with simple dislocations during the same period. Of the patients with fracture-dislocations, 103 had greater tuberosity fractures, 12 had nondisplaced surgical neck fractures, and 50 had displaced surgical neck fractures. None of the patients with simple dislocations had displacement during an ED reduction attempt, including 100 patients aged > 65 years. Of the 103 patients with greater tuberosity fracture-dislocations, only 1 had displacement of a humeral shaft fracture during ED reduction. Displacement occurred in 6 of 8 patients with nondisplaced neck fractures who underwent an initial ED reduction attempt vs. 1 of 4 patients who underwent the initial reduction attempt in the operating room. ED reduction was attempted in 25 of the 50 displaced humeral neck fracture-dislocations and was successful in 10 of these (40%).

CONCLUSIONS: For patients with greater tuberosity fracture-dislocations, there is a low rate of displacement with a reduction attempt in the ED, but an ED reduction attempt in nondisplaced neck fractures is not recommended because of the high rate of displacement. For displaced neck fractures, closed reduction can be successful in select patients. Finally, these data confirm prior reports that closed reduction of simple shoulder dislocations in patients aged > 65 years is safe in the ED.


Proximal humerus, closed reduction, dislocation, emergency department, fracture, sedation

DOI of Published Version



Green A, Choi P, Lubitz M, Aaron DL, Swart E. Proximal humeral fracture-dislocations: which patterns can be reduced in the emergency department? J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2021 Oct 11:S1058-2746(21)00710-2. doi: 10.1016/j.jse.2021.09.003. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34648967. Link to article on publisher's site

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of shoulder and elbow surgery

PubMed ID