When the joint surfaces of an elbow are separated, an elbow dislocation, also called a subluxation, has occurred. Dislocated elbows can be complete or partial. In a completely dislocated elbow, the joint surfaces are totally separated. In a partial elbow dislocation, the joint surfaces are only partly separated.
Diagnosing Dislocated Elbows
X-rays will confirm whether or not you have a dislocated elbow. Your physician will take your wrist pulse to rule out any artery injury related to your dislocated elbow.
Treatment for Elbow Dislocation
Your physician will need to realign the joints in your dislocated elbow. Restoring alignment to your dislocated elbow is called a reduction maneuver. It is done gently and slowly. Two people are usually required to perform this maneuver. Afterward, your elbow will be in a splint or sling for two to three weeks after your elbow dislocation, and then you will most likely undergo physical therapy to regain strength and flexibility.
In the case of a complex elbow dislocation, your surgeon may have to restore bone alignment and repair ligaments. It can be difficult to realign a complex elbow dislocation and to keep the joint in line. After dislocated elbow surgery, the elbow may be protected with an external hinge.