What is Elbow Dislocation?
The elbow is a very strong and stable joint, made up of 3 bones, 1 from the upper arm and 2 from the forearm. Elbow dislocation commonly refers to hyper-extension or over straightening injury, forcing apart the bones back of the elbow.
Injury may be classified as;
a partial dislocation - called a subluxation
a full dislocation - called a complete dislocation
Children suffer more subluxation injuries while adults suffer more complete dislocation injuries, usually by fall injuries in sports or by bracing themselves in car accidents.
The risk of blood vessel and nerve injury in elbow dislocation make it an emergency condition made even more serious in cases of large dislocation or fracture dislocation of the elbow.
Emergency elbow dislocation? You need an elbow expert!
If you suspect an elbow dislocation of any kind, it should be treated as an emergency.
Book an emergency consult online with Dr Gupta using our special EMERGENCY booking form.
Elbow dislocation may exhibit the following symptoms;
- Extreme pain
- Complete loss of function of the elbow
- Disfigurement of the elbow
- Strong muscle contraction and spasm of the elbow
- Associated swelling and bruising
- Associated pins and needles or numbness down the forearm into the hand
- Extreme anxiety and worry
Elbow dislocation may be caused by;
- Forced straightening of the elbow
- An awkward twisting forearm against a straightening elbow
- A combination of both
A normal reaction to falling is to reach out to break your fall. If your arm locks at an unusual angle against the ground on impact, you may not be able to stop it from straightening beyond its means.
Similar to a fall, reaching out to a dashboard or steering wheel on impact during a motor vehicle accident, may cause the force of the impact to over extend the elbow.
To diagnose an elbow dislocation, the consultant will question the patient to:
- Understand the nature of the injury (sports, work, accident, overuse etc)
- Determine the cause of the injury (impact, collision, fall, repetitive/slow onset)
- Understand the context of the suffering (age, return to sport, work, impact on daily living)
- Perform a physical examination to ascertain pain and stability
- Perform specialised shoulder tests to confirm diagnosis
Partial Elbow Dislocations
Joint surfaces of the elbow may have partially separated and returned to their normal position. This type of injury causes pain, swelling and a feeling of instability of the elbow. Hypermobility tests can be used to determine if an elbow has been partially dislocated.
Complete Elbow Dislocations
Disfigurement of the elbow will be obvious in complete dislocation. You will not be unable to bend or twist your elbow. Your pulse and sensation should be checked at the wrist & hand to determine if you have sustained a serious blood vessel or nerve injury.
X-Ray and MRI will confirm any fractures and associated blood vessel or nerve damage.
Early diagnosis and treatment is extremely important to avoid re-injury and serious long term consequences.
Begin with a thorough diagnosis of your condition to understand the severity of the condition in the context of your age, your sport, your work and your life.
Non-surgical treatment of the injury requires;
- Emergency relocation
- Rest and immobilisation for a least 6 weeks
- Pain and anti-inflammatory medication
- Elbow bracing
- Consideration for surgery
- Physiotherapy rehab protocol
Generally surgery is not necessary for elbow dislocation injuries
Elbow Stability Surgery is indicated in serious elbow dislocation injury involving additional elbow injury such as fractures, blood vessel or nerve damage. Dr Gupta will assess the seveity of your condition in order to determine the best type of elbow stability operation for you.
Dr Gupta uses a systematic approach to diagnosis and treatment to help you return to the sport or activities that you love.
Contact Dr Gupta on 02 9687 8344 or make an online booking here.