Posterior Drawer test of the shoulder is used to test for Posterior Instability. It was first described by C.Gerber and R.Ganz in 1984. 1
How do you perform the Shoulder Posterior Drawer Test?
The patient in supine position.
The examiner uses one hand to guide the humeral head, placing the thumb on the anterior humeral head and the fingers on the scapular spine, posterior humeral head, and scapular spine and posterior glenoid if necessary.
With the other hand the examiner holds the patient’s arm in 90° of flexion at about 20 to 30° of horizontal extension.
The examiner exerts pressure on the anterior humeral head with the thumb while simultaneously holding the arm in horizontal flexion and applying axial posterior compression in slight internal rotation.
What does a positive Posterior Drawer Test of the shoulder mean?
Where there is sufficient laxity in the capsular ligaments, this test will provoke a posterior drawer (subluxation or dislocation of the humeral head).
Horizontal extension, slight external rotation of the arm , and additional posteroanterior pressure applied by the finger to the posterior aspect of the humeral head will suffice to reduce the humeral head.
The snap that accompanies reduction must be carefully distinguished from anterior subluxation.
The important thing is to assess the motion of the humeral head relative to the glenoid fossa by placing the index finger posteriorly around the glenoid and pressing the humeral head in an anteroposterior direction with the thumb.
The Fukuda test elicits a passive posterior drawer sign.
The patient is seated with the examiner’s thumbs resting on both the patient’s scapular spines. The examiner’s other fingers rest anterior to the humeral head and exert posterior pressure to trigger a posterior drawer.
This test should preferably be performed on both shoulders at the same time to provide a better comparison of the two sides
The examination may also be performed with the patient seated. With the patient in a relaxed posture bending slightly forward with the arm hanging alongside the trunk, the examiner places his or her thumb on the patient’s scapular spine or posterior glenoid and grasps the humeral head anteriorly. Applying rotation and pressure with the fingers will provoke posterior subluxation of the head where there is sufficient laxity in the capsular ligaments.
In posterior instability, the humeral head can be posteriorly displaced by one-half its diameter.
Posterior instabilities, which are rare and only comprise approximately 2% of all shoulder dislocations, are often associated with seizure, electric shock, diving into a shallow pool, or motor vehicle accidents.
Patients who have a posterior instability pattern typically report symptoms with the arm in a forward flexed, adducted position, such as when pushing open heavy doors.
Posterior dislocations are classified as:
subacromial (posterior and inferior to the acromion process, the most common),
subglenoid (posterior and inferior to the glenoid rim),
subspinous (medial to the acromion and inferior to the scapular spine).
The most characteristic sign for a posterior dislocation is a loud clunk as the shoulder is moved from a forward flexed position into abduction and external rotation, a positive finding that is often misdiagnosed as an anterior dislocation.
The findings for a posterior dislocation are usually severe pain, limited ER, often to less than 0 degree, and limited elevation to less than 90 degrees. There is usually a posterior prominence and rounding of the shoulder as compared to the opposite side, and a flattening of the anterior aspects of the shoulder. Looking down at the patient’s shoulders from behind can best assess these asymmetries
C Gerber, R Ganz. Clinical assessment of instability of the shoulder. With special reference to anterior and posterior drawer tests. J Bone Joint Surg Br. 1984 Aug;66(4):551-6. doi: 10.1302/0301-620X.66B4.6746691. PMID: 6746691.
Matsen FA 3rd, Harryman DT 2nd, Sidles JA. Mechanics of glenohumeral instability. Clin Sports Med. 1991 Oct;10(4):783-8. PMID: 1934096.
Brody LT: Shoulder. In: Wadsworth C, ed. Current Concepts of Orthopedic Physical Therapy—Home Study Course. La Crosse, WI: Orthopaedic Section, APTA, 2001.
Clinical Tests for the Musculoskeletal System 3rd Edition.
Dutton’s Orthopaedic Examination, Evaluation, And Intervention 3rd Edition.