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Radial head dislocation
Alternative namesNursemaid's elbow; Pulled elbow; Partial elbow dislocation; Elbow subluxation
DefinitionA dislocation means the displacement of a body part (usually a joint) from its normal location. In a radial head dislocation, the forearm slips out of position at the elbow joint.
This is a common but easily preventable injury in 1- to 3-year-old children.
Once the elbow dislocates, it is likely to do so again, especially in the three or four weeks following the injury.
This injury occurs frequently among toddlers. It is caused by a sudden pull on the child's arm or hand. It typically occurs when an adult pulls the child up from the hand, often to prevent a fall, to assist the child up a curb or step, or to hurry the child along. Swinging toddlers from the arms while playing can also cause this injury.
This injury, also commonly called a "nursemaid's elbow" does not usually occur after five years of age. By this time children's joints and ligaments are stronger, and they are less likely to be in a situation where this injury might occur.
1. Apply an ice pack to the elbow.
2. Splint the injured arm in the position in which you found it. Immobilize the area both above and below the injured joint, including the shoulder and the wrist if possible.
3. Take the child to the doctor's office or emergency room. In some cases of frequently recurring nursemaid's elbow, your physician may teach you how to attempt to relocate the elbow yourself. This is done by supinating (externally rotating) the forearm (in other words, turning the thumb out with palm up), then gently flexing the arm at the elbow (pushing the forearm up into the biceps).
Although this injury is usually not a medical emergency, you should call for immediate medical attention if any of the above symptoms is present.
Update Date: 1/15/2002David M. Scher, M.D., Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, NYU-Hospital for Joint Diseases, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT