Elbow Dislocation2016-10-12T12:39:59-04:00

Elbow Dislocation

Elbow pain and arthritis

Elbow Dislocation

The elbow joint is comprised of three bones; one bone from the upper arm and two bones from the lower arm. The elbow is held together by the unique shape of the bones and ligaments, which keep them in proper alignment. The elbow becomes dislocated when its joint surfaces are separated. Elbow dislocations can be partial or complete. In a partial dislocation, also called subluxation, the joint surfaces are only partly separated. A complete dislocation occurs when the joint surfaces are completely separated.

Symptoms of Elbow Dislocation

A complete dislocation of the elbow is extremely painful and very obvious. It may have a twisted appearance, and the arm may look deformed. A partial dislocation, or subluxation, may be harder to detect. The bones can naturally relocate, so the joint appears normal. There may be pain and bruising from stretched or torn ligaments. A proper diagnosis, often through X-ray of a partially dislocated elbow, is critical to preventing further injury or damage over time.

Treatment of Elbow Dislocation

Usually performed in a hospital emergency department, the alignment of the elbow can be restored using a procedure called the reduction maneuver. It often requires two people to perform and pain medication to help the patient through the painful process. Physical therapy proves beneficial after a period of recovery.

Surgical treatment may be required for a complex dislocation of the elbow. Realignment of the bones in the elbow joint is critical to restoring function and use of the elbow. The post-surgical recovery period heavily restricts elbow movement to protect it from dislocating again.

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