Treatments for Shoulder Dislocation in Children

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Contact the Hand and Orthopedic Upper Extremity Program

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In most cases, your child's doctor can treat the shoulder dislocation without surgery.

•   gentle maneuvering to reset the bones in their original place, which may
    or may not require a general anesthetic
•   pain medication
•   a sling or splint to stabilize and immobilize the arm and shoulder

When is surgery needed?

Surgery is needed when the shoulder instability becomes a disability for your child. The need for surgery depends on the functional demands of your child and the degree of instability present. Typically, surgery is not done unless a conservative program of exercise has failed. Patients who have repeated shoulder dislocations may be good candidates for surgery.

•   Surgery attempts to restore an anatomic balance to the joint and address the problems that are causing the
    instability.
•   Repairs focus on tightening the stretched ligaments and/or repairing the labrum if it was torn at the time of
    injury.
•   In some situations, arthroscopic techniques, a minimally invasive outpatient procedure that inserts a small
    camera into the joint for the doctor to inspect, may be used, but in many situations, open repair is the
    favored technique.
•   The goal is to restore stability while maintaining mobility of the shoulder and providing pain-free range
    of motion.
•   Typical success rates for open surgery for shoulder instability vary from 90 to 95%

How can we make sure the shoulder doesn't dislocate again?

Patients can often compensate for loose ligaments by increasing the strength and control of the rotator cuff and shoulder blade muscles. These muscle groups help pull the humeral head into the glenoid and will pull more tightly if they are strong.

•   Typical rehabilitation programs start with a short period of immobilization with a sling
•   Progress to exercises like closed grip pull downs, rowing on a machine and shrugs, for shoulder blade strength.
•   Strengthening programs for the rotator cuff include rotation exercises with the arm down at the side.
•   Resistant rubber tubing or cables may be used.
•   Exercises that increase coordination of the shoulder are also important and these include exercises with a
    medicine ball, and bouncing balls against the wall and the floor.

We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

Boston Children's Hospital 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115 617-355-6000 | 800-355-7944

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