Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Elbow FAQ


My husband fractured and dislocated his elbow in a car accident. He's wearing a brace that's actually pinned into the elbow. Why can't he just have a regular brace that comes off and on?


You're describing what's called an external fixator for the elbow. The idea is to allow normal motion while still protecting the joint. During the healing process, it's important to avoid compression through the joint surfaces or overload the healing soft tissues.

Without the fixator your husband would not be allowed to move at all while the bone heals. The problem with that idea is then the joint loses its motion. Regaining lost motion is even more difficult than healing fractured bones.

The rigid fixation of a pinned brace gives better control of motion. Even a small amount of torque can cause the tissues to heal with the wrong angle.

Virak Tan, MD, et al. Hinged Elbow External Fixators: Indications and Uses. In Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. December 2005. Vol. 13. No. 8. Pp. 503-514.

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