Elbow Injuries - Elbow Dislocations

Authors: Melody Glenn, MD, Andrew Little, DO, Mary Haas, MD
Updated: 12/12/2016

Elbow Injuries: Elbow Dislocation

Anterior vs posterior elbow dislocation drawing. 90% are posterior

X-ray views

  • AP Elbow
  • Lateral

Acute Management

If Simple Posterior Dislocation

  • Closed reduction
  • Observe post reduction for delayed signs of vascular or compartment syndrome
  • Long arm posterior splint with elbow in 90 degree flexion

Follow Up Timing


  • Vascular Injury
  • Open Dislocation
  • Unable to successfully close reduce the elbow

Urgent (<3 days)

  • Especially for complex dislocation, anterior dislocation or peripheral nerve injury

Less Urgent (< 7 days)

  • For simple posterior dislocations without neurovascular compromise
  • 1 week of immobilization with early range of motion exercises



  • Simple: No associated fracture
  • Complex: Associated with elbow fracture (1/3 of elbow dislocations)

Terrible Triad:

  • Elbow Dislocation
  • Coronoid process fracture
  • Radial head fracture


  • Ulnar nerve neuropraxia (14%)
  • Median nerve and brachial artery injuries (more common with anterior and open dislocations)
  • Compartment syndrome