Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Elbow FAQ

Question:

My son broke his arm and dislocated his elbow about 10 years ago. They were going to operate but at the last minute in the operating room, they put his elbow back into place so they didn't do surgery. Since then, he's dislocated his elbow four times. I read that if they have broken bones, surgery is needed. Should he not have had surgery?

Answer:

It's not possible to second guess the treatment choices made by a surgeon 10 years ago. There's a lot of unknowns in the case. Most often, if someone breaks the bones near the elbow and dislocates the elbow as well, surgery is done. The surgery is meant to stabilize the elbow and ensure that there's no further damage from the fracture. However, there are situations where this may not be needed. Perhaps the fracture wasn't near the elbow itself, but further up or down on the arm? Maybe the surgeon felt that the elbow was quite stable after it was put back into place? At this point, we can only guess at what the reasoning was. Roger P. van Riet. Elbow dislocations. In Current Orthopaedic Practice. November 2008. Vol. 19. No. 6. Pp. 616-620.

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