Elbow Dislocation Diagnosis & Treatment
The elbow is an important joint that connects the radius and ulna of the forearm to the humerus of the upper arm. When this joint becomes displaced or dislocated, it can cause very painful symptoms that may require surgical treatment depending on the degree of injury.
Common Causes & Symptoms of a Dislocated Elbow
Most often, a dislocated elbow is an accidental outcome from a fall or event such as a car crash. Unfortunately, this means that many people have no way to take preventative action toward avoiding an elbow dislocation, though a disorder of the ligaments or hinge joint in the arm may make them more susceptible to this particular injury.
Individuals with an elbow dislocation will typically report symptoms such as pain, bruising, swelling, and reduced range of the joint’s mobility. The exact symptoms experienced will depend on how severe the dislocation is, which may be categorized in one of the following ways:
- A simple dislocation: There is no major bone injury present.
- A partial dislocation (subluxation): These are often quite difficult to detect as they do not always present significant symptoms. Any stretched ligaments may lead to bruising, and can also result in repeated dislocations if they are not properly treated.
- A complex dislocation: The bone and/or ligaments have been seriously injured.
- A severe dislocation: The blood vessels and/or nerves of the elbow have been compromised, which can cause death of the surrounding tissues if not addressed right away by a medical professional.
Diagnosing an Elbow Dislocation
If you suspect that you may have an elbow dislocation, it is best to seek care from a specialist in Chesterfield, MO. This way, our physicians will be able to determine the source of your symptoms and recommend treatment options as soon as possible to forego any extreme measures that may be necessary if the injury worsens over time.
X-ray Images & Arteriograms
X-rays are the most common diagnostic tool used when dealing with a potential dislocation or break in the bone. This test can be completed quickly, provide immediate results, and offer clear insight into the current placement of the elbow joint.
If your specialist from our office believes that the vascular system has been compromised by a severe elbow dislocation, they may request that an arteriogram be performed to examine the arteries of the arm.
Treatment Options for a Dislocated Elbow
Icing the area is always recommended as soon as possible to reduce any inflammation of the area. Complete immobility of the elbow, numbness, or lack of a pulse at the wrist are all signs of a severe dislocation and should be treated right away to avoid further damage to the affected arm.
Realignment of the Elbow
The first step to resolving a dislocated elbow is to put it back in place. Our office will complete this process by manually manipulating the joint back into its proper position. Patients may receive sedatives beforehand to reduce any pain during realignment, though this will typically not be offered to those who require immediate treatment in an emergency situation.
After the elbow is in place, a splint or sling is often applied to keep the joint immobile for 1 to 3 weeks. Simple exercises will be introduced during this time period to start strengthening the muscles and ligaments of the elbow and allow the individual to start regaining their full range of motion. It is important not to push yourself too hard at this time, as this will only exacerbate the injury and lengthen your recovery time. Follow up examinations with Woods Mill Orthopedics will determine when the healing process is over and the patient can return to regular activity levels.
Surgery to Repair a Dislocated Elbow
Patients who have sustained a complex or severe dislocation of the elbow may require surgery to realign the bones of the joint and repair any stretched or torn ligaments. This procedure is relatively simple and not high-risk, though it typically takes more time to recover from as compared to nonsurgical methods used for less significant injuries of the elbow.
If you believe you have a dislocated elbow, contact Woods Mill Orthopedics today at (314) 576-7013.