Orthopedic Treatment For Elbow Dislocation

by Craig W. Goodhart, MD 22. August 2014 10:17

Elbow Dislocation occurs when the joint surfaces of elbow are dislocated. It is the second most common joint condition in adults, following shoulder displacements. The ailment can be either complete or partial. When complete dislocation takes place, the joint surfaces are completely perturbed. However in a partial dislocation, or a subluxation, the joint surfaces are only moderately separated. The amount of force required to dislocate an elbow is also enough to fracture a bone. Usually, these injuries occur together. An elbow dislocation can be classified from simple to complex categories.

A simple dislocation does not have any bone injury. On the other hand, a complex one can have severe bone and ligament injuries. In very severe cases, the blood vessels and nerves traveling across the elbow may get injured. In case it happens, there is a risk of losing the arm. Due to stabilizing effects of bone surfaces, ligaments and muscles, the elbow stays in stable position. Dislocation of an elbow can impact any of these structures to varied extents.


An elbow can be dislocated if an athlete tries to break a fall by extending an arm. When the elbow hits a hard surface, as a result of trauma the force shoots up to the elbow driving it out of the socket. This condition can also occur due to a fracture. It is common in people who are engaged in sports activities like gymnastics, cycling, rollerblading, skateboarding or similar sports. This can also happen during accidents when passengers reach forward to cushion the impact. Just like a fall, this impact can also drive the elbow out of its socket.


Elbow Dislocation causes a deformity in the structure of the arm and certain indentations on the skin show that the bones have shifted location.  The pain experienced is intense and is only relieved after the elbow has been relocated. Swelling and bruising can be seen at the region of dislocation if some tissues or ligaments are torn. If the nerves are damaged, there is tingling sensation, numbness and tightening of the muscles of the forearm. If a bone has been fractured, it can also cause temporary or permanent paralysis of the arm.


The orthopedic doctor determines the extent of injury to the arm by performing physical examinations. These help to determine any damage to the blood and nerve vessels. X-rays help to determine any major fractures and dislocations. CT scans and MRI tests can also help evaluate the position of ligaments.


Non-surgical: If the dislocation is partial, it can be relocated. A medical professional can put back the elbow in its place by applying a quick motion on the forearm. Another method called ‘closed reduction’ helps to put back the elbow without surgery. Medicines are prescribed to the patient to provide relief from the pain.

Surgical:  If it is diagnosed that bones or ligaments are fractured, surgery may be needed to realign the elbow. However, if there is swelling, it might delay the surgery by a few weeks. The elbow should be provided appropriate time to heal post-surgery.
Rehabilitation programs help in restoring the normal functioning of the elbow after treatment, whether surgical or non-surgical. Physical therapy programs help in regaining the range of motion and motor control. Any straining activities should be avoided and protective splints or bandages should be worn until the elbow gets recovered completely.

For comprehensive treatment of Elbow Dislocation in Flower Mound, TX, visit Dr. Goodhart. To schedule an appointment, call at (972) 899-4679.

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