An elbow dislocation occurs when the bones that make up the elbow are no longer in alignment. This most commonly occurs after a fall on an outstretched arm.
The elbow joint is made up of three bones; the humerus in the upper arm, and the radius and ulna in the forearm. The ligaments around the bones make the elbow joint stable and protect the elbow from injury.
If you think you have suffered an elbow dislocation, a thorough history and examination should be performed by an orthopedic specialist. Our Walk-In Anytime Ortho Orthopedic Urgent Care Clinic is a convenient affordable way to get an accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment without having to go through the hassle and costs of a hospital emergency room.
Elbow dislocations are diagnosed using imaging techniques such as X-rays, CT scan, or MRI. X-rays are important to determine the characteristics of the dislocation or if there is a fracture. MRI of the elbow can identify the extent of any ligament or soft tissue injury.
Elbow dislocations are treated with immediate reduction. Most reduced elbow dislocations are stable and can be managed afterwards with an elbow brace, physical therapy, and rest. Some elbow dislocations continue to be unstable or involve fractures. These require surgery to fix.
Elbow dislocations that involve fractures or continue to be unstable may require surgery to fix the fractures or repair the ligaments in place. After the elbow has been reduced initially, the elbow may be repaired once the swelling around the elbow has improved.
After the elbow has been reduced and repaired, the elbow is placed in a splint to allow swelling to improve. After 2 weeks, a brace is used to protect the elbow while it heals. It is important to begin elbow range of motion soon after injury to avoid stiffness in the elbow. Physical therapy is started 2-3 weeks after surgery.
**Disclaimer: Treatment recommendations may vary depending on your true diagnosis. Always follow the recommendations of your orthopedic provider.