Dislocated elbow

A dislocated elbow occurs when the bones that make up the joint are forced out of alignment — typically when a person lands on an outstretched hand during a fall.

Toddlers may experience a dislocated elbow, sometimes known as nursemaid's elbow, if they are lifted or swung by their forearms.

If you or your child has a dislocated elbow, seek immediate medical attention. Complications can occur if the dislocated elbow pinches or traps the blood vessels and nerves that serve the lower arm and hand.

In most cases, a dislocated elbow can be realigned without surgery. However, the impact that caused the elbow to dislocate also can cause bone fractures within the joint, so surgical repair may be necessary.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Signs and symptoms of a dislocated elbow commonly include:

  • Extreme pain
  • Obvious distortion of the joint

In some cases, the elbow may be only partially dislocated, which can cause bruising and pain where the ligaments were stretched or torn.

When to see a doctor

Seek immediate medical attention if you or your child has experienced a dislocated elbow.

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