Septic shoulder presenting as a shoulder dislocation in the pediatric patient: a case report

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Shoulder dislocation is relatively uncommon in the younger pediatric population. Because of the relative strength of the surrounding soft tissue structures of the shoulder compared with the proximal humeral physis, subluxation or dislocation resulting from a traumatic event or application of force is rare and instead a proximal humeral physeal injury occurs. Case presentation – We present a 5-year-old male who presented to the office with post-traumatic left shoulder pain for about 1 week. Radiographs of the left shoulder indicated inferior subluxation of the humeral head. He was ultimately diagnosed and treated for a septic shoulder. Septic arthritis of the glenohumeral joint accounts for about 3% of all septic arthritis cases. About half of the pediatric patients with a septic arthritis will present with a concomitant osteomyelitis about the joint involved. Widening of the glenohumeral joint and subluxation clinically as well as radiographically have been described in cases of large joint effusions because of an increase in intra-articular fluid in adults. This inferior subluxation is often noted without a frank dislocation. The case described in this report is unique in that this is the first to describe a pediatric septic shoulder presenting as a shoulder subluxation. Given the rarity of pediatric shoulder dislocations and subluxations, the pediatric orthopaedist and pediatrician should maintain a suspicion for a septic joint. Level of evidence: Level V.

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