Elbow joint out of place

Elbow dislocation happens when the bones that make up your elbow joint become separated or move out of their normal place. This is a condition that results from an injury to your arm, such as a fall.

Some elbow dislocations also involve a fracture of the elbow. These are known as complex elbow fracture dislocations.

A dislocation can cause damage to bones, joint cartilage, tendons, muscles or nerves. If you believe your elbow is dislocated, you should seek medical care right away. Getting treatment quickly can lower the risk of long-term problems.

The most common causes of elbow dislocation are:

  • Sports injuries
  • Falling on your arm our outstretched hand
  • Car accidents

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

The symptoms of elbow dislocation include:

  • Deformity of the elbow
  • Bruising
  • Pain
  • Problems moving the elbow
  • Swelling
  • Weakness

To diagnose elbow dislocation, a doctor will examine your arm and ask about your medical history. Your doctor may also order X-rays and/or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans.

Your treatment may include:

  • Realigning the bones
  • Wearing a sling or brace
  • Elevating the elbow
  • Ice packs
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Physical therapy
  • Rest
  • Surgery

Your recovery time will depend on the severity of the elbow dislocation and may include wearing a sling, physical therapy. Surgery may be recommended for some cases.

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Our Experts in Orthopaedic Care

Orthopaedics is proud to be a leader in the care of patients with disorders of the bones, joints and spine. Our faculty, clinicians, and researchers have been recognized by U.S. News & World Report, ranking as one of the best hospitals in the nation for in orthopaedic care.

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Penn State Health includes the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, ranked as one of the best orthopaedic providers in the country by U.S. News & World Report. This honor was earned because our doctors consistently deliver exceptional patient care and outcomes through their commitment to advanced treatments, translational research and provider training.

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Penn State Health orthopaedic specialists work together through our dedicated Penn State Bone and Joint Institute. We focus on providing you with tailored care and state-of-the-art treatments to produce the highest-quality patient outcomes. All physicians at the institute are fellowship-trained and subspecialize in additional areas of orthopaedics and sports medicine.

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Penn State Bone and Joint Institute is a Blue Distinction Center for Knee and Hip Replacement. This superior designation from BlueCross BlueShield is only given to health care facilities and providers that stand out for their expertise in delivering specialty knee and hip replacement care. Our surgeons specialize in a range of pain-relieving procedures, including partial knee replacement, total joint arthroplasty, joint preservation surgery and complex revision surgery. They perform more than 1,000 joint replacement procedures every year.

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The doctors and researchers in the Center for Orthopaedic Research and Translational Science at Hershey Medical Center are committed to advancing their field through scientific discovery and education. As the only locally based academic medical center in central Pennsylvania, Hershey Medical Center is a national leader in research and on the leading edge of new treatment options, including clinical trials, in partnership with Penn State College of Medicine.

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