What causes Elbow Dislocation?
Elbow dislocation is the second most common dislocation injury seen in adults. Elbow dislocation usually occurs after a high impact fall or crash with an outstretched arm. There are three bones in the arm that make up the elbow joint: the humerus, radius, and ulna. A elbow dislocation occurs when any of these three bones comes out of alignment. There are variable types of elbow dislocations with variable levels of seriousness.
Types of Elbow Dislocation
Simple Elbow Dislocation
A simple elbow dislocation is a dislocation that involves either the humerus, radius, or ulna coming out of their position in the elbow joint. As long as there are no fractures of the bones involved the dislocation is considered simple. Simple elbow dislocations are the most common type of dislocation in children and the second most common type in adults.
Complex Elbow Dislocation
A complex elbow dislocation is a when the humerus, radius, or ulna, come out of their proper position in the elbow joint and are also associated with a fracture at the same time. Complex elbow dislocations are just that, complex. In their complexity it is often required to surgically correct the fracture to restore stability to the joint.
How do you treat a Elbow Dislocation?
Treatment of a elbow dislocation is variable on the type of dislocation that occurs. For a simple dislocation it would be rare to need surgery, however the elbow will still need to be put into the correct position. A trip to the ER is warranted for all types of elbow dislocations. After imaging to determine the extent of the damage the patient will be given muscle relaxers and pain medication before the arm is put under tension and manipulated back into place. It should also be noted that ligament sprains can accompany a dislocation and may require surgical reconstruction. The conversion from a dislocated joint to a properly aligned joint is called reduction. It is necessary to reduce a elbow dislocation and then follow up with a orthopedic surgeon.
Does a Elbow Dislocation need surgery?
Many simple elbow dislocations do not need surgery to correct dislocation. However, complex dislocations also involve a broken humerus, radius, or ulna, and may require that the bone be surgically corrected so that the reduction of the elbow will stay in place.
How long does a Elbow Dislocation take to heal?
A simple elbow dislocation after a reduction at the ER will need rest for 1-3 weeks in a splint. After the splint is removed physical therapy may be used to regain range of motion the the elbow. For regular usage of the arm 6 weeks of healing may be needed, but for athletic use double that may be required to ensure the joint heals properly.
Complex elbow dislocations can take considerably longer. Due to the bone being broken surgery may be used to correct the fracture and stabilize the joint. Even after the initial surgery there could be additional surgeries to correct any damage done to the vascular, or nervous system. It could also be necessary to repair torn tendons. To protect the joint a hinged splint may be necessary to protect the joint from re-injury. While simple elbow dislocations may take 6-12 weeks to heal a complex elbow joint is going to be a -case by case basis and could take significantly longer.