Elbow dislocation

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Elbow dislocation
Lateral X ray of a dislocated right elbow.
SymptomsElbow deformity and pain[1][2]
ComplicationsElbow stiffness[2]
TypesPartial versus complete;[1] simple versus complex;[2] posterior versus anterior versus divergent[2]
CausesInjury such as a fall[1]
Diagnostic methodSupported by X-rays[2]
Differential diagnosisDistal humerus fracture, epiconyle fracture, ulna fracture[3]
TreatmentJoint reduction, surgery[4]

Elbow dislocation is when the humerus is no longer in normal contact with the ulna at the elbow joint.[4] Symptoms include deformity and severe pain at the elbow.[1][2] Complications may include stiffness of the elbow or decreased range of motion.[2][3]

The cause is generally an injury such as a fall.[1] Among sports, wrestling and gymnastics are commonly involved.[2] The underlying mechanism involves at least injury to the ligaments around the elbow.[4] Diagnosis is supported by X-rays.[2] Types are simple (75%), generally if no fracture is present, and complex, when a fracture is present.[2][4]

Initial treatment involves a joint reduction.[4] Afterwards the elbow maybe placed in a back slab or sling at 90 degree.[2] Surgery may be required if the joint redislocates following reduction or if a fracture is present.[4] Early range of motion exercises are recommended.[2]

Elbow dislocations are uncommon.[1] Though they are the second most common dislocation of a large joint, occurring in about 1 in 20,000 people a year.[2][3] They most frequently occur in people between the age of 10 and 20, with males more commonly affected.[3]


Initial imaging is generally with plain X-rays.[2] CT scan may be used to detect subtle fractures or find fragments of bone preventing reduction.[2] MRI may be useful to detect injury to ligaments.[2]


Types include simple, in which no fracture is present, and complex, which is associated with a fracture.[2]

Specific types of complex fractures include:[2]



One technique to reduce a posterior dislocation occurs with the person on lying flat on their back, the elbow bend, and the palm facing up.[2] One person than pulls on the lower arm well another holds the upper arm in place.[2] The upper ulna is correct aligned side to side, than the olecranon is moved back into place.[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 "Elbow Dislocation - OrthoInfo - AAOS". www.orthoinfo.org. Archived from the original on 21 March 2023. Retrieved 3 July 2023.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 2.17 2.18 2.19 2.20 Rezaie, N; Gupta, S; Service, BC; Osbahr, DC (July 2020). "Elbow Dislocation". Clinics in sports medicine. 39 (3): 637–655. doi:10.1016/j.csm.2020.02.009. PMID 32446580.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Layson, J; Best, BJ (January 2023). "Elbow Dislocation". PMID 31747224. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 "Elbow Dislocation: Signs and Treatment | The Hand Society". www.assh.org. Archived from the original on 26 March 2023. Retrieved 18 July 2023.

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