An elbow dislocation occurs when the bones of the forearm (the radius and ulna) move out of place compared with the bone of the arm (the humerus). The elbow joint, formed where these three bones meet, becomes dislocated, or out of joint. Specific, serious injuries that can accompany elbow dislocation include breaking of the bones (fractures), injuries to the arteries in the arm (the vessels carrying blood to the hand), and injuries to the nerves that run through the elbow area, impairing movement and feeling in the arm and hand.
The cause of most elbow dislocations is usually a fall, most commonly with the arm extended completely. However, any traumatic injury (such as a car crash or fall skiing) can result in an elbow dislocation. "Nursemaid's elbow" is a particular type of elbow dislocation that most commonly occurs in young children who have had an abrupt yanking of their forearm. The result is a dislocation of the head of the radius bone at the elbow. It is common in children less than 5 years old. Severe pain in the elbow, swelling, and inability to bend the arm are all signs of an elbow dislocation. In some cases, people may lose feeling in their hand or lose a pulse (can't feel a heartbeat in the wrist)
The doctor will reduce (put back in place) your elbow by pulling down on your wrist and levering your elbow back into place. This is very painful, so powerful medications for pain may be given before reduction. After your elbow is back in place, the doctor will get X-rays and then put you in a splint that will keep your elbow bent. The splint will make an "L" around the back of your elbow. It will be made of plaster or fiberglass. Its purpose is to prevent movement of your arm at the elbow. Usually, your arm will be placed in a sling to help you hold up your splint.