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Elbow Dislocation (cont.)

When to Seek Medical Care for Elbow Dislocation

A person should go to the doctor's office or hospital's emergency department immediately if they are unable to move their elbow, have severe pain, cannot feel their hand, or have no pulse in the wrist.

Diagnosis of Elbow Dislocation

The doctor will begin with an examination. A dislocation of the elbow is a diagnosis that can be made upon examination.

  • The doctor will make sure nerves and arteries are unhurt by checking the pulse, making sure the patient can feel normally, move their fingers and wrist, and make sure that blood is flowing normally to the hand.
  • Next, the doctor will obtain X-rays. Sometimes, breaks in the bone can look like dislocations, and some breaks happen when dislocations occur.
  • If the doctor suspects an injury to an artery, further tests, such as an arteriogram (an X-ray of an artery) may be performed.

Self-Care at Home for Elbow Dislocation

An elbow dislocation is a serious injury that needs medical care. At home, put ice on the elbow. This will help with the pain and will reduce some of the swelling. But the most important thing to do is to see a doctor.

It is best that this injury undergo evaluation by a doctor, but at home, a person can also check for a few signs that will show if the artery in the arm and the nerves are intact.

  • To check for the artery, feel below your thumb at the base of your wrist. You should be able to feel your pulse. Press on the tips of your fingers. They should blanch (turn white) and then return to a normal pink color within three seconds. If either of these tests is abnormal, seek medical care immediately. You can do this on another person or child if they can not do it themselves.
  • Three nerves run by the elbow. Each nerve has portions that help with strength and feeling. First check for strength by bending the wrist up as if you were saying "stop" (radial nerve function), then spread your fingers apart (ulnar nerve function), then try to touch your thumb to your little finger (median nerve function). If the injured person has trouble with any of these tests, go to the doctor immediately.
  • Check for feeling or sensory changes by touching all over the hand and arm. If any feeling of numbness results, see a doctor immediately.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/7/2016

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