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Health Library

Elbow Dislocation

Elbow Anatomy

There are three bones that make up the elbow: the upper arm bone called the humerus; and the two bones in the forearm (radius and ulna) which form the lower part of the elbow.

The elbow is a ball-and-socket joint as well as a hinge joint. The elbow allows for both bending and flexing.


What Is Elbow Dislocation?

The elbow is dislocated when the joint surfaces of an elbow are separated. Elbow dislocations can be partial or complete.


Common Causes

Elbow dislocations typically occur when a person falls onto an outstretched hand. The force is sent to the elbow when a hand hits the ground, and may result in a dislocation. An elbow dislocation can also occur during a car accident.


Diagnosis

To receive a diagnosis, a qualified musculoskeletal expert will first take a medical history and conduct a physical exam. X-ray or MRI scanning may be required.


Treatment

Generally, dislocations can be realigned by a doctor without surgery. A sling may be needed initially. Gentle motion is started early to avoid elbow stiffness.

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