Elbow Dislocation Overview
Your elbow is a unique joint. Through the elbow, the arm bends and the wrist rotates. These disparate functions are possible because the elbow joint works as both a hinge and ball-and-socket joint. It is the complexity of the elbow that also makes it vulnerable to injury.
When the joint completely separates, it is called a dislocation. When the joint’s surfaces separate either partially or completely, it affects the ligaments, tendons, and muscles that support and strengthen the joint. A separation also affects the bone, nerves and blood vessels.
Elbow dislocations happen as a result of trauma, often when the arm is attempting to cushion a fall or protect the body from a frontal impact. In such cases, force travels from the hand or lower arm into the elbow joint, forcing the two bones to rotate and subsequently dislocate.
There can also be a genetic component to shoulder dislocations. Some persons are born with a shallow socket, so the bone is more likely to pop out of the joint in the case of trauma. And the relative tightness of your ligaments can also be an inherited trait. If you have more relaxed ligaments, they are less effective at supporting the joint.
If you have a complete elbow dislocation, you will know it immediately. An elbow dislocation causes severe pain and a physical deformation that appears near the joint. A partial dislocation is more subtle. You will feel some pain and notice bruising, your elbow may seem to function normally. But this can be deceptive, as the ligaments may have been damaged. But if they do not heal properly, you are more likely to suffer future problems with the joint, including additional dislocations.
Elbow Dislocation Surgery Details
After an elbow dislocation, the first priority is restoring proper alignment of the bones. This step will often happen in an Emergency Room setting. Once the elbow joint is reduced, if the elbow joint can be moved through a range-of-motion without the risk of a re-dislocation, surgery is avoided and physical therapy is started.
However, when the elbow is reduced but remains unstable or it cannot be reduced, then a surgical procedure is needed. Open surgery by experienced Chicago orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Anthony Romeo is performed to repair torn ligaments, a broken bone or impairment of the nerves or blood vessels. Repairing bone can involve the use of metal plates that are secured in place with screws. In rare cases, the use of an external hinged brace is used to support the elbow as bone and ligaments heal.
For more information about causes and treatment of elbow dislocation, please request an appointment with experienced Chicago orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Anthony Romeo. Call or email our office today to schedule your visit.
Anthony Romeo, MD
Dr. Anthony Romeo is one of the nation’s leading orthopaedic surgeons specializing in the management and surgical treatment of shoulder and elbow conditions. His state-of-the-art practice employs minimally-invasive arthroscopic techniques to accelerate the recovery process for a range of challenging conditions.