Evaluation and Management of Sternoclavicular Dislocation in the Emergency Department

J Emerg Med. 2021 Nov;61(5):499-506. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2021.07.038. Epub 2021 Sep 10.


Background: Sternoclavicular dislocation (SCD) is a rare injury but can result in hemodynamic and neurovascular complications. Emergency clinicians play an integral role in the evaluation and management of these injuries.

Objective: This article provides a narrative review of the diagnosis and management of SCD for the emergency clinician.

Discussion: SCD is an infrequent injury and may be misdiagnosed in the emergency department (ED). SCDs may be anterior or posterior. Although anterior SCD is more common, posterior SCD is more dangerous with a risk of pneumothorax or injury to the subclavian artery or vein, esophagus, trachea, or brachial plexus. Most patients present with shoulder and clavicular pain and decreased active range of motion. Clinicians should assess the sternoclavicular joint in patients with shoulder symptoms and consider SCD in traumatic shoulder injuries. Plain radiographs might not identify SCD, and computed tomography is recommended for both the diagnosis of SCD and evaluation of complications. Anterior SCD can be managed in the ED with analgesia, sedation, and closed reduction. If patients with posterior SCDs display airway, hemodynamic, or vascular compromise, emergent reduction is recommended with cardiothoracic consultation. Any complicated anterior SCD, including those with fracture, and all posterior SCDs require emergent orthopedic consultation, with considerations for cardiothoracic or vascular surgery notification.

Conclusions: SCD is an uncommon orthopedic injury but may result in patient morbidity or mortality. Knowledge of SCDs can optimize emergency clinician evaluation and management of this condition.

Keywords: dislocation; neurovascular; orthopedic; shoulder, orthopedics, sternoclavicular dislocation; sternoclavicular dislocation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arm Injuries*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Fractures, Bone*
  • Humans
  • Joint Dislocations* / diagnosis
  • Joint Dislocations* / therapy
  • Shoulder Dislocation*
  • Sternoclavicular Joint* / diagnostic imaging