Elbow dislocation occurs once the surfaces of the joint are separated and can be partial or complete. A complete dislocation takes place if the surfaces of the joints are separated completely. As for the partial dislocation, the surfaces of the joints are only separated incompletely.
Causes of elbow dislocation
Dislocations of the elbow are not quite common and they typically take place once an individual falls with the hands outstretched. The moment the hand strikes a hard surface, the force is sent directly to the elbow and there is usually a turning motion from this force that can rotate or drive the elbow out from its socket. This injury can also occur during vehicular accidents if the individual reaches forward to suppress the impact.
In a simple elbow dislocation, no major bone injury is incurred while a complex elbow dislocation involves severe ligament and bone injuries. In worst cases, the nerves and blood vessels throughout the elbow can be affected. In such cases, there is a possibility that the arm will be removed. Individuals who inherently have laxness in their ligaments are at risk for dislocation.
Signs and symptoms of a dislocated elbow
If there is complete dislocation of the elbow, it is very painful and the affected arm has an odd twist at the area of the elbow. As for a partial dislocation, it is difficult to detect and usually occurs right after an accident. Due to the partial dislocation, the bones have the possibility to relocate in a spontaneous manner while the joint appears normal. In some cases, pain and bruising is present either inside or exterior the elbow.
How an elbow dislocation is diagnosed
Once a doctor is consulted, the affected arm is examined for swelling, tenderness an
d deformity. The skin will be assessed and the circulation in the arm while the pulses at the wrist are checked. In case an artery is damaged, the hand is cool to the touch or exudes a purple or white hue.
X-ray is required to determine if the bones are damaged and can define the direction of the dislocation. This diagnostic exam can confirm if the elbow is dislocated. A CT scan is performed if the damage is difficult to identify on the X-ray.
How elbow dislocations are treated
Dislocations of the elbow must be considered as an emergency. The main
objective of immediate care for an elbow dislocation is to restore the elbow to its proper alignment while the long-term objective is to restore functionality to the affected arm.
The normal alignment of the elbow is restored in an emergency room in
any hospital. Prior to the procedure which is called reduction maneuver, pain medications and sedatives are administered. The procedure is performed in a slow and gentle manner.
For minor elbow dislocations, it can be treated by immobilizing the elbow
using a sling or splint for 2-3 weeks and followed with motion exercises. Take note that if the elbow is not exercised for an extended period, it can affect its range of motion. Always remember that physical therapy is needed during the recovery period.