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Alternative namesPulled elbow; Dislocated elbow - children
DefinitionNursemaid's elbow is a partial dislocation of the elbow joint, making it difficult and painful to move the joint.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Nursemaid's elbow is a common condition in young children and generally affects children under five. It occurs when someone pulls a child too hard by the hand or wrist.
Nursemaid's elbow is often seen after a parent lifts a child by one arm up a curb or high step. The child generally begins to cry immediately and refuses to use the arm. The child hold's the arm in a slightly flexed position (slightly bent at the elbow) and holds the forearm against the abdomen. The child will move the shoulder, but not the elbow.
Often, the child will stop crying as the immediate pain subsides, but will continue to refuse to move the elbow.
Signs and testsThe child will be unable to rotate the arm at the elbow so that the palm is up, or bend the elbow (flex) fully.
TreatmentThe doctor will reduce the dislocation by rotating the forearm so that the palm is up and gently flexing the elbow all the way. Note: Do NOT try to do this yourself as you can do more harm than good. See your health care provider for assistance.
Expectations (prognosis)If nursemaid's elbow remains untreated, it may result in permanent inability to fully move the elbow. With treatment, there is usually no permanent damage.
Calling your health care providerCall your health care provider if you suspect your child has a dislocated elbow or refuses to use an arm.
PreventionAvoid lifting a child by one arm only (from the wrist or hand). Lift under the arm, from the upper arm, or both arms at a time.
Update Date: 2/14/2003Andrew L. Chen, M.D., M.S., Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Hospital for Joint Diseases, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT