Elbow Dislocation

Elbow dislocation is one of the most common injuries that occur when you fall. Typically you fall on an outstretched hand and the bones in your elbow are “knocked” out of position.

If this happens to you, you will not be in any doubt as to what has happened. You will feel immediate, significant pain in your elbow which will be swollen and deformed. The elbow will not move more than a few degrees and you may get some numbness and tingling in your hand. It is difficult to differentiate this from an elbow fracture.

In most instances this will be treated in a hospital emergency department where pain killers will be provided and an X-ray will be taken. In most instances, the elbow will be “put back” into place right away with or without an anaesthetic. The elbow will then be splinted after it has been examined for stability.

If there has been a fracture or nerve damage these may require further treatment immediately.

If there are no other injuries, then your elbow will be immobilised for a period of time. This time frame will be determined by the nature of the other injuries around the elbow. At some point, a hinged brace may be applied to the elbow to allow movement, but this may not be necessary in all cases.

The major dangers with elbow dislocation are ongoing instability or stiffness. Instability will result if one of the major stabilising ligaments to the elbow has been damaged, and stiffness will result if the elbow is immobilised for too long. Stiffness may result even if the elbow is moved immediately due to the nature of the injury.

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