Elbow Dislocation

The elbow is a hinge joint that consists of three bones, the humerus (upper arm), radius (forearm) and ulna (forearm). The bones are held together by ligaments to provide stability to the joint. Muscles and tendons move the bones to help in performing various activities. Elbow dislocation occurs when the bones that make up the joint are forced out of alignment.

Your elbow can get dislocated when you fall onto an outstretched hand or from a traumatic injury such as motor vehicle accident. Elbow dislocation can be simple, where there is no bone injury, or complex, when the bones, ligaments and in severe cases, blood vessels and nerves are damaged. When the elbow is dislocated you may experience severe pain, swelling and lack the ability to bend your arm. When blood vessels and nerves running along your elbow are injured, you may lose sensation in your hand, or no pulse in your wrist.

To diagnose elbow dislocation your doctor will closely examine your arm for a pulse at the wrist to ensure normal blood circulation in the arm. An X-ray is necessary to determine if there is a break in the bone. An arteriogram, an X-ray of your artery, helps determine if an artery is injured.

An elbow dislocation is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. At home, you may apply an ice pack to the elbow to ease pain and swelling. You doctor will realign the bones of your dislocated elbow into place (closed reduction) under anesthesia. After the reduction you may have to wear a splint to immobilize your arm at the elbow. Severe dislocations may require surgery to reduce the bones and repair damaged ligaments, blood vessels and nerves. After a few days you are referred to physical therapy to improve the range of motion and strength of your joint.

Other Elbow Conditions List