Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Elbow FAQ

Question:

My nephew fell off a swing and complained of severe pain in his elbow. When he was at the emergency, they didn't see anything on the x-ray and the doctor just splinted his arm for a few weeks because he said it looked like he had dislocated it. Well, my question is, wouldn't the doctor have seen the dislocation on the x-ray if it was dislocated?

Answer:

Children fall a lot - that's part of the whole growing up thing. Unfortunately, some of these falls result in either broken bones or dislocated joints - or both. While broken bones don't miraculously heal before the child gets to emergency, there are times when a dislocation can fix itself before medical help arrives. This is called a spontaneous reduction. The bone went out of place and then went back on its own. When this happens, the doctors can only suspect this is what happened. There may be some left over damage in the joint, such as fluid that isn't usually there, and pain, as well as reduced range of motion of the arm. In this case, the diagnosis of a dislocated joint may be made and then it will be treated as such to be on the safe side. Dave Simon, MD, et al. Intra-articular Median Nerve Incarceration After Spontaneous Reduction of a Pediatric Elbow Dislocation: Case Report and Review of the Literature. In Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics. March 2010. Vol. 30, No. 2.  Pp. 125-129.

*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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