A 10-year-old male with no past medical history presents to the Emergency Department (ED) by EMS for evaluation of an injury sustained while playing tackle football. The patient was forcibly hit by another child against a tree. He complains of sharp right shoulder and chest pain that worsens with movement of his right upper extremity and he arrives wearing a sling to immobilize the arm.
Cardiovascular: RRR without murmurs, rubs, or gallops, peripheral pulses 2+ throughout
Pulmonary: Bilateral breath sounds, clear to auscultation
Chest: Inability to visualize the right medial clavicular notch or clavicular ridge along with palpable tenderness at the right upper sternoclavicular joint
MSK: The shoulders are asymmetric with the right slightly higher than the left. The right arm is held adducted and internally rotated in a sling. The patient is reluctant to abduct the right arm secondary to pain.
Neuro: No gross motor or sensory deficits were appreciated
SC joint dislocation can occur with anterior or posterior displacement of the medial clavicular head. Anterior dislocations are mostly caused by medial impact to the lateral shoulder. Anterior dislocations are more common and generally regarded as less serious. Conversely, posterior dislocations are more serious but less common. Posterior dislocations usually result from impact directly to the anterior chest wall. High-speed motor vehicle accidents or high-impact sports are common causes of posterior dislocations.
Subclavian vascular injury, pneumothorax, esophageal injury, cardiac arrhythmias, brachial plexus injury, tracheal injury, and thoracic outlet syndrome are all potential complications of an SC joint dislocation. When the medial head of the clavicle is forced posteriorly into the superior mediastinum several structures are at risk of impingement which could cause serious complications. In patients with suspicion of clavicular fracture or dislocation, the presence of dyspnea, stridor, dysphagia, or hoarseness should raise genuine concern for a compressive mediastinal syndrome that may require emergent closed or surgical relocation attempts.
An anterior medial head sternoclavicular dislocation is generally apparent and easily palpable on physical examination, while a posterior dislocation may be difficult to appreciate.
A posterior medial head sternoclavicular dislocation may require computed tomography to diagnose and requires computed tomography angiography to fully assess all mediastinal structures.
Closed reduction is the gold standard for the treatment of non-complicated posterior dislocations. Surgical fixation may be required when compressive complications such as vascular injury are confirmed or when closed reduction is unsuccessful.
Patients with a previous history of sternoclavicular dislocation are at higher risk of developing thoracic outlet syndrome.