Elbow Dislocation

What is Elbow Dislocation?

The elbow is the joint between the arm and forearm bones. The ulna and the radius make up the forearm while the arm consists of just one bone, the humerus. This joint is said to be dislocated when the surfaces of the three bones are separated.
Dislocation of the elbow can be partial or complete.
Elbow dislocations are usually associated with ligament tears, tendon tears and sometimes fractures around the elbow.

Elbow Dislocation

What is Elbow Dislocation?

The elbow is the joint between the arm and forearm bones. The ulna and the radius make up the forearm while the arm consists of just one bone, the humerus. This joint is said to be dislocated when the surfaces of the three bones are separated.
Dislocation of the elbow can be partial or complete.
Elbow dislocations are usually associated with ligament tears, tendon tears and sometimes fractures around the elbow.

Causes and Symptoms of Elbow Dislocation

Causes 

Elbow dislocations usually occur:

  • After a traumatic fall.
  • Falling from a bike
  • Falling awkwardly during sports or on slippery ground

Symptoms 

At the time of injury, the elbow will be very painful and deformed. One may not be able to control the elbow as the joint is out of place. This is usually accompanied by swelling.

Once the bones are put back in place, one may:

  • Feel persistent looseness in the joint, or
  • Experience recurrent dislocations.

How is it diagnosed?

Physical Examination 

The orthopaedic surgeon will evaluate your elbow and examine it for associated injuries.

Imaging tests
Initial X-rays may be required to assess the dislocation to plan how to put the bones back in position. Subsequently, an MRI or CT scan may be necessary to fully evaluate the damage to the ligaments, tendons and bones in more severe cases. This may help to direct subsequent treatment.

Elbow Dislocation

How is it diagnosed?

Physical Examination 

The orthopaedic surgeon will evaluate your elbow and examine it for associated injuries.

Imaging tests
Initial X-rays may be required to assess the dislocation to plan how to put the bones back in position. Subsequently, an MRI or CT scan may be necessary to fully evaluate the damage to the ligaments, tendons and bones in more severe cases. This may help to direct subsequent treatment.

Elbow Dislocation

Treatment Options

A joint that is dislocated always needs to be put back in place as soon as possible. After that, the treatment often depends on the severity of the dislocation.

Keep in mind that if your condition requires surgery, your Orthopaedic Surgeon should always educate you on:

  • Risks of the surgery
  • How to prepare for a surgery
  • What will be required for post-op care
Non-surgical treatment options are mostly applicable to simple dislocations. The elbow is immobilised in a cast or elbow brace for a few weeks to allow the muscle and ligaments to heal.

Physiotherapy
Once the elbow has started to heal, range-of-motion exercises help to restore the normal elbow flexibility and strength. This may take several months.

Elbow Reconstruction Surgery
Surgery often involves fixing the broken bones and repairing or reconstructing torn ligaments or tendons. With stable fixation and reconstruction, early mobilisation of the elbow joint is possible. This will help to restore your elbow's full range of motion and helps prevent long-term problems of elbow stiffness and pain. 
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Disclaimer

Shoulder | Elbow Orthopaedic Group does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products, or physicians that are referenced in this article. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific orthopaedic advice or assistance should consult his or her Orthopaedic Surgeon.

If you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected]

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