Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Elbow FAQ

Question:

I dislocated my left elbow two weeks ago in a motorcycle accident. The surgeon was able to get the elbow back in place, put me on some antiinflammatories, and gave me a splint to wear. I'm two weeks out and ready to get rid of the splint but a little worried that if I move it too soon, I might reinjure it. My doc says it's okay but I'm checking the Internet to see what else I can find.

Answer:

It sounds like you might have had what orthopedic surgeons refer to as a simple elbow dislocation. By simple, we mean a dislocated joint that can be set back into its proper place. There's no fracture and surgery isn't needed to relocate the joint. The joint is stable. Elbow dislocations occur most often as a result of falls, assault, car accidents, and sports-related trauma. At the time of the injury after reduction, X-rays are taken to make sure everything is in order. Reduction for a simple elbow dislocation is usually followed by immobilization in a splint (for no more than three weeks) and then early range-of-motion and movement. Patients are advised to avoid certain movements (e.g., supination or a palm up position with the elbow fully extended) during the healing phase. Heavy lifting is not allowed for six weeks. Physical therapy is prescribed if stiffness is a problem. The real concern about motion too early is a recurrence of the dislocation. But typically, repeated elbow dislocations and subsequent instability are not linked resuming elbow motion early on after the first episode. Those guidelines will change if the surgeon has done any kind of ligament reconstruction or applied external fixation to hold the elbow in place for any length of time. It's best to follow your surgeon's advice and check in with him or her for further clarification. Raymond E. Anakwe, MBChB, MRCSEd, et al. Patient-Reported Outcomes After Simple Dislocation of the Elbow. In The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. July 6, 2011. Vol. 93-A. No. 13. 1220-1226.

*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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