Sternoclavicular Joint Dislocation (SC Dislocation)

The sternoclavicular joint, also known as the SC joint, is the area of the shoulder where the collarbone (clavicle) connects to the breastbone (sternum). The clavicle and sternum are connected and held tightly together by a number of ligaments, muscles, cartilage and soft tissue. While an SC joint dislocation is relatively uncommon compared to other dislocations, they are the most common injuries associated with the collarbone. Austin, Texas shoulder specialist, Dr. Jeff Padalecki specializes in treating sternoclavicular joint dislocations and returning patients to an active lifestyle.

In the majority of cases, a sternoclavicular joint dislocation occurs when severe trauma or force is struck to the front or outside of the shoulder joint. Sporting activities or traumatic events are common causes of this injury, including a tackle during football or an automobile accident.

An SC joint dislocation and subluxation often emulate one another. In cases of a sternoclavicular joint dislocation, the joint becomes completely separated, causing the surrounding articular surfaces to no longer remain intact. In cases of subluxation, these structures will remain all or partially intact.

There are two types of sternoclavicular joint dislocations, an anterior dislocation and a posterior dislocation.

  • Anterior dislocation: The clavicle is pushed forward in front of the sternum. This is the most common form of a sternoclavicular joint dislocation.
  • Posterior dislocation: The SC joint dislocation is less common and is also considered complex. A posterior dislocation occurs when the clavicle is pushed behind the sternum, typically caused by a very hard fall or traumatic event. Medical help will need to be sought immediately. Vital organs reside behind the sternum, which lies against the injured collarbone. This injury can cause life threatening damage to the heart and lungs if not treated in a timely manner.

SC Dislocation Symptoms

Many patients know immediately if an SC joint dislocation has occurred, typically by severe shoulder pain that gets worse with any arm movement. In cases of an anterior dislocation, the end of the clavicle extends out near the sternum, causing a hard bump in the middle of the chest. In cases of a posterior dislocation, a bump is not obvious in most cases. Patients suffering from a posterior dislocation may experience difficulty breathing, shortness of breath or a choking feeling.

SC Dislocation Diagnostic Testing

An SC joint dislocation diagnosis will begin with a complete medical review and physical examination. Patients who have experienced an anterior dislocation typically have a visible dislocation at the end of the clavicle, making the diagnosis fairly simple. An X-ray and MRI scan may also be performed to evaluate the type of dislocation and extent of injury.

Have you sustained a sternoclavicular joint dislocation?

There are two ways to initiate a consultation with Dr. Padalecki:

You can provide current X-rays and/or MRIs for a clinical case review with Dr. Padalecki.

You can schedule an office consultation with Dr. Padalecki.

Request Case Review or Office Consultation

SC Dislocation Treatment

Dr. Padalecki will perform surgery on an anterior SC joint dislocation for patients experiencing painful, symptomatic dislocations. During shoulder surgery, Dr. Padalecki will stabilize the joint through a reduction, and he may also repair the damaged capsule. Dr. Padalecki will perform shoulder surgery to relocate and reposition the SC joint in cases of a posterior sternoclavicular joint dislocation. In severe cases, if damage to nearby blood vessels or other organs are involved in the injury, a vascular surgeon may be brought in for additional consultation.

SC Dislocation Post-Op

Following shoulder surgery, patients will start shoulder motion under the direction of Dr. Padalecki and a physical therapist. Patients will be asked to wear a sling for many weeks following surgery to help protect the joint while it heals. Eventually, after the ligaments heal, patients will be allowed to progressively strengthen the shoulder joint and discard the sling.

For more resources on an SC joint dislocation, or to learn more about treatment options for a sternoclavicular joint dislocation, please contact Dr. Jeff Padalecki, orthopedic shoulder specialist in the Austin, Texas area.