Elbow dislocation occurs when the gliding surfaces of the joint become disconnected. If the joint surfaces are only partly disconnected the joint is called subluxed. Often this causes the bones around the joint to fracture.
Dislocation is often a sporting injury or could be as a result of a fall.
The affected joint will be an unusual shape and very painful.
An x-ray will confirm the dislocation as well as any possible fractures to the joint.
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Any dislocated or subluxed joint needs to be put back in place as soon as possible. This is usually done in the local Accident and Emergency department.
Occasionally the joint is difficult to reduce or is difficult to keep lined up properly after the reduction and further input is required from a specialist, sometimes including surgery.
If the joint is put back in place quickly, is stable and there are no associated fractures then a good recovery can be expected. The affected joint will be swollen and stiff and some work will be necessary to recover full function.
Elevation, ice packs and gentle stretching exercises are useful. The swelling can take several months to settle fully.