You are here

At Slocum Center, our specialized elbow surgeons are dedicated to treating elbow dislocation. We have been caring for elbow patients for more than four decades. You can be assured that your elbow condition will be cared for by a dedicated doctor whose skill-set is extraordinary. 

Cause

Elbow dislocations typically occur when a person falls onto an outstretched hand. When the hand hits the ground, the force is sent to the elbow. Usually there is a turning motion in this force, which can drive and rotate the elbow out of its socket. Elbow dislocations can also happen in car accidents when passengers reach forward to cushion the impact, or they can happen in sports, such as wrestling or gymnastics.

When an elbow dislocates, bones, ligaments, and muscles can be injured to different degrees. A simple dislocation does not have any major bone injury, whereas a complex dislocation can entail severe bone and ligament injuries.

Prevention

Some people are born with greater laxity, or looseness, in their ligaments. These people are at a greater risk for dislocating their elbows. Some people are born with an ulna bone that has a shallow groove for the elbow hinge joint. They have a slightly higher risk for dislocation as well. Nothing can be done to alter these risk factors.

Treatment

The immediate goal of treatment is to put the elbow back in the joint. The long-term goal is to restore function to the arm, focusing first on the alignment of the elbow. This can usually be done in an emergency department. The patient will receive sedation and pain medications. The act of restoring alignment at the elbow is called a reduction maneuver.

Simple elbow dislocations are treated with early motion after a short period in a splint or sling. Physical therapy can be helpful during this period of recovery; however, some people will never recover full elbow motion, even after a course of therapy. Fortunately, the elbow can work very well even without full motion. Once the elbow's range of motion improves, the doctor or physical therapist may recommend a strengthening program. X-rays may be necessary to ensure that the elbow joint remains well aligned. In a complex elbow dislocation, surgery may be necessary to restore bone alignment and to repair ligaments.