I dislocated my elbow and had a fairly simple surgery to put it back together. Now I'm in a sling but no one has told me how long I have to keep this on. What do you suggest?
Definitely call and check with your surgeon about his or her guidelines. Each surgery has its own unique management plan. The goal is to protect the joint and soft tissues while they heal. Saving the soft tissues that have been damaged and preserving the joint surface are the top priorities.
When it's a simple dislocation that is reduced (relocated), putting the arm in a splint is usually just for no more than two weeks. Patients are told not to move the arm away from the body. That motion puts a lot of stress on the elbow.
The key anatomical feature of elbow dislocations is the lateral collateral ligament (LCL). When this important stabilizing structure is torn or damaged as a result of injury, elbow instability is often the result. Instability means the joint keeps slipping out of place. There can be a partial dislocation called subluxation or a full, recurrent (repeated) dislocation.
After reduction or after surgery, the patient with a repaired elbow dislocation is watched closely for elbow instability. Surveillance (observation) is especially important during the recovery period for those who have had surgery and throughout the rehab process for everyone. Wearing the splint according to the doctor's instructions is an important part of that process.
Mohamed H. Ebrahimzadeh, MD, et al. Traumatic Elbow Instability. In The Journal of Hand Surgery. July 2010. Vol. 35-A. No. 7. Pp. 1220-1225.
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