The diagnosis of a shoulder dislocation is most commonly made by a patients’ history and physical exam. Patients usually describe how the injury occurred and how the shoulder was put back into joint. Typically, the physical exam demonstrates instability, although in the initial period the exam often only demonstrates tenderness around the shoulder.
Radiographs are performed usually at the time of dislocation as well as after the shoulder has been put back in. Radiographs help determine if there was any significant injury to the bone of the humeral head or glenoid.
An MRI is often obtained to evaluate the soft tissue injury around the shoulder. An MRI allows the surgeon to visualize the injury to the labrum (the "Bankart lesion") and determine if there is any other injury to the shoulder such as a rotator cuff tear.
UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.