What is a dislocated Elbow?
A dislocated elbow is when the top part and bottom part of the elbow joint come apart. This can occur after a fall onto an outstretched hand or the fall onto the point of the elbow. This commonly can be associated with fractures of the radius or the ulna which can significantly change the way these dislocations are managed.
Symptoms include severe pain and deformity of the elbow with associated swelling. There can also be pins and needles in the hand.
Diagnosis is made clinically on observation of the deformity of the elbow. Ofcourse it can be confirmed after the joint is reduced by means of an X-Ray and CT scan.
The treatments required urgent reduction in the emergency department with sedation or a general anaesthetic. After that once there is an assessment over there are fractured bones there may be a requirement to undergo operative fixation of any fractures including ligament repair. There is a form of elbow dislocation which is termed a terrible triad. This is because it involves a dislocation of the elbow as well as a radial head fracture and a coronoid fracture. These can be difficult to treat and need careful reduction of all of the fractured fragments, stable fixation and careful and early rehabilitation.
Outcomes for dislocated elbow treatment without any fracture is good. Typically patients regain all of the range of the motion over a period of 6 to 12 months. If there are associated fractures then the outcomes can be poorer and may require operative intervention.