Elbow Dislocation

Elbow Dislocation Overview

A dislocated elbow occurs when the elbow bones are partially or completely separated. The injury is considered a medical emergency—the bones need to be put back in an anatomical position as soon as possible. An appointment with a Carolina Orthopaedic and Neurosurgical Associates’ (CONA) elbow specialist should be made immediately after the injury.

Symptoms & Causes

Dislocated elbow symptoms include:

  • Bruising
  • Extreme pain
  • Swelling
  • Visible elbow deformity

A fall on an outstretched arm is the main dislocated elbow cause

Common Treatments:

Putting the elbow bones in proper anatomical alignment is the first treatment goal. After this occurs, a CONA specialist may prescribe:

  • Immobilization in a cast, splint or sling
  • Pain and anti-inflammatory medications
  • Physical therapy

Surgery may be recommended if nonsurgical treatment options do not stabilize the elbow. A CONA specialist repairs torn ligaments and the elbow is stabilized.


A visible elbow deformity makes a dislocated elbow easy to identify. X-rays show the elbow bones and the degree of separation. An MRI shows ligament tears if they are present. After an accurate diagnosis is made, a customized treatment plan is prescribed to reduce symptoms and treat the injury.

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