Elbow Dislocation - Dislocation Of The Elbow Joint

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Elbow Dislocation - Dislocation Of The Elbow Joint
Elbow Dislocation - Dislocation Of The Elbow Joint

Video: Elbow Dislocation - Dislocation Of The Elbow Joint

Video: Elbow Dislocation - Dislocation Of The Elbow Joint
Video: Elbow Dislocations - Everything You Need To Know - Dr. Nabil Ebraheim 2023, May

Elbow dislocation

Elbow dislocation is a dislocation (dislocation) of the elbow joint between the humerus and the two forearm bones, the spoke and ulna. If the elbow is dislocated, collateral ligaments, nerves or bones are also often injured. After shoulder dislocation, elbow dislocation is the second most common dislocation in adults and the most common dislocation in children. Around 40 percent of all elbow dislocations occur during exercise.


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The elbow is the complex joint between the upper arm bone (humerus) and the two bones of the forearm (ulna and radius). Three joint parts (hinges) connect the bones and allow the forearm to be angled and rotated.

Anatomy of the elbow © bilderzwerg

In most elbow dislocations, the hinge joint between the ulna and the humerus is affected (approx. 90 percent). Often there is a displacement of the ulna or radius and a tear in the inner collateral ligament and the joint capsule. Concomitant bony injuries usually occur on the joint head of the spoke (radius head) or on the protruding bone on the inside of the elbow head.

What are the causes of an elbow dislocation?

The most common cause is falling on the hand with an arm outstretched. The elbow joint is usually dislocated backwards (dorsally) and to the side. The dislocation is often associated with an injury to the capsule-ligament apparatus or broken bones (fractures). More rarely, a dislocation occurs by forcibly twisting the arm, e.g. in martial arts.

What are the symptoms?

A dislocation causes severe pain and restricted mobility in the area of the elbow and forearm, often with severe swelling. Bruising can also develop. The normal shape of the elbow is significantly changed. A loss of sensitivity in the arm area rarely occurs.

First aid

An elbow dislocation must not be adjusted by laypeople! The dislocated joint should not be moved in order to avoid further injuries to the surrounding muscles, nerves, blood vessels, etc. Immobilization and fixation of the injured elbow and rapid medical care are therefore important.

In addition, the affected area can be cooled to relieve the pain. For cooling purposes, a “cool pack” or another cool object is held in place for about 20 minutes. Warning: ice must not be placed directly on the skin! For example, wrap it in cloths. For more information, see: Emergency Injuries.

How is the diagnosis made?

First, the doctor collects the medical history and asks how the injury occurred. The elbow is then examined for external signs. The doctor checks stability, tenderness and mobility restrictions as well as the blood circulation and sensitivity of the arm.

X-rays in different planes provide more precise information about the shape and extent of the injury. Further examinations may be necessary to clarify possible accompanying injuries, e.g. MRI if injuries to the ligaments are suspected, CT in the case of bony injuries. After the examinations, the doctor assesses whether the injury is a dislocation or another injury, e.g. broken bone, sprain, bruise, etc. Often, for example, there is a break in the protruding bone (epicondyle) at the lower end of the upper arm bone (humerus).

How is elbow dislocation treated?

The therapy for elbow dislocation depends on the diagnosed extent and the form of the injury.

Treatment without surgery

The reduction (reduction) of the joint is usually painful. Therefore it may be done under anesthesia. After the reduction, the doctor checks the blood circulation, sensitivity and mobility of the elbow and arm. Ev. further check-ups are agreed with the patient.

If there is no accompanying bone fracture, the elbow is immobilized with a special splint for about two weeks. If necessary, the doctor prescribes medication for the patient to relieve pain. In uncomplicated cases, the doctor will prescribe physical therapy with simple exercises, just a few days after the reduction. To do this, the splint is temporarily removed. The exercises help to restore the mobility and strength of the arm.

Treatment with surgery

Surgery to dislocate the elbow is necessary if a dislocation is not possible. Other reasons for an operation include injuries to the capsule and ligament apparatus, fractures, instability of the joint and repeated dislocations.

As soon as possible after the operation, the doctor will prescribe functional physiotherapy with simple exercises to maintain the mobility of the joint.

How is the follow-up treatment carried out?

After the acute treatment or operation, several examinations to control the healing and further physical therapies are planned. The patient is instructed by the physiotherapist to perform the exercises independently. The doctor informs the patient when the healing process is complete and normal activities and movements can be resumed.

Whom can I ask?

If you suspect elbow dislocation, go to the hospital or call the ambulance (144).

Diagnosis and treatment is usually carried out in a hospital or in an outpatient clinic by specialists from the following fields:

  • Orthopedics and Traumatology
  • Orthopedics and Orthopedic Surgery
  • Trauma surgery

An inpatient stay is necessary for surgical treatment.

Exercise therapy after acute treatment can be carried out on an outpatient basis according to a doctor's prescription, e.g. in the hospital outpatient department or by resident physiotherapists or occupational therapists.

How are the costs going to be covered?

The e-card is your personal key to the benefits of the statutory health insurance. All necessary and appropriate diagnostic and therapeutic measures are taken over by your responsible social insurance agency. A deductible or contribution to costs may apply for certain services. You can obtain detailed information from your social security agency. Further information can also be found at:

  • Right to treatment
  • Visit to the doctor: costs and deductibles
  • What does the hospital stay cost?
  • Prescription fee: This is how drug costs are covered
  • Medical aids & aids
  • Health Professions AZ

and via the online guide to reimbursement of social insurance costs.

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