The elbow is made up of three bones, the humerus (upper arm), the ulna (large bone of forearm), and the radius (small forearm bone near the thumb). Between the humerus and ulna is the humeroulnar joint, which enables the elbow to be able to move, in other words flex and extend. The elbow is known as a hinge joint, due to it being able to bend and straighten up and down like a hinge.
The elbow can become broken or dislocated when there is too much pressure put on the joint, whether by injury or prolonged wear and tear. Sometimes it is hard to tell what type of injury you have, especially if the biggest factor is sudden pain.
If you are playing a sport such as soccer or basketball and take a hard fall or slip and break your fall with an arm…you could suffer a hyperextended or dislocated elbow. It might be difficult to tell what type of injury you have but knowing what type of injury you have can afford you the best treatment outcome.
Dislocating Your Elbow
You might think that a dislocated elbow is a rare injury, but about 10-25 percent of injuries to the elbow are dislocations. It happens to be the second most common joint dislocation, commonly occurring during sport-related activities. When an individual dislocates their elbow, this means that the bones of the forearm (radius and ulna) move out of place, meaning they become misaligned with the humerus, which is the bone in the upper arm. If there is enough force placed upon the elbow, the bones within the joint can also fracture and dislocate at the same time.
Elbow dislocations range from simple to complex. Simple dislocations are those that occur without a fracture. Complex dislocations are when the elbow becomes dislocated and fractures simultaneously. Complex fractures often require surgery known as a reduction, and commonly for dislocation the doctor will attempt to pop the elbow joint back into place.
Dislocated Elbow Treatment
An elbow dislocation causes immobilization and often results in excruciating pain. It’s one of those injuries where you definitely know that something isn’t right, and the joint is not working as it should. Depending on the severity of the dislocation the elbow can require surgical or non-surgical intervention.
Non-operative treatment is called a closed reduction. This procedure involves the realignment of bones in the elbow without surgical intervention. This ultimately allows the bones to grow and heal back together. While non-surgical, a closed reduction of the elbow can be a very painful manipulation, that will often require some level of sedation.
Surgical intervention called an open reduction (ORIF) or internal fixation, involves two parts. First the dislocated bone is put back into place, and if the bones of the elbow have also fractured, steel rods, plates, or screws are inserted to stabilize the fractures bones, to help heal and fuse the broken bones back together. Once the dislocation and fracture have healed, physical therapy will be prescribed with the hopes of restoring range of motion and function.
With an elbow dislocation, the proper treatment and recovery process is a crucial part of getting the joint to heal back to normal function. To learn more about elbow dislocation and what to do if this happens to you or someone you know, call the orthopedic specialists of Advanced Bone & Joint at (636) 229-4222, or request an appointment online.