Dislocation of the Elbow, Finger(s) & Wrist

A dislocation occurs when the ends of two connected bones are separated and no longer in their proper position.

Elbow Dislocation

Elbow dislocations are not common. When the joint surfaces of an elbow are separated, the elbow is dislocated. Elbow dislocations typically occur when a person falls onto an outstretched hand. When the hand hits the ground, the force is sent to the elbow. Usually, there is a turning motion in this force. This can drive and rotate the elbow out of its socket. Some people are born with greater laxity or looseness in their ligaments. These people are at greater risk for dislocating their elbows.

A complete elbow dislocation is extremely painful and very obvious. The arm will look deformed and may have an odd twist at the elbow. An elbow dislocation should be considered an emergency injury. The goal of immediate treatment of a dislocated elbow is to return the elbow to its normal alignment. The long- term goal is to restore function to the arm.

Elbow Dislocation Treatment

Simple elbow dislocations are treated by keeping the elbow immobile in a splint or sling for two to four days, followed by early motion exercises. In a complex elbow dislocation, surgery may be necessary to restore bone alignment and repair ligaments. Treatment for simple dislocations is usually straightforward and the results are usually good. Some people with complex dislocations still have some type of permanent disability at the elbow.

Finger Dislocation

A finger dislocation is a common injury that occurs when the bone is forced out of its normal position. Most dislocations happen at the middle joint, but any of the bones in the finger can become dislocated. Finger dislocations are usually caused by trauma that jams or bends the finger past its normal range of motion.

Symptoms of Finger Dislocation

  • Pain
  • Visible deformity of the finger
  • Finger may be bent at an odd, unnatural angle
  • The patient usually cannot actively move finger.
  • Swelling and numbness


Finger Dislocation Treatment

A finger dislocation is typically treated by reducing the joint, which means putting the joint back into its proper place. To ensure no serious damage was done to the bones, nerves, or tendons, you should schedule an appointment with an orthopaedic hand specialist.

Wrist Dislocation

A wrist dislocation occurs when one of the small bones in the wrist comes out of place within the wrist joint. A wrist fracture usually occurs with a wrist dislocation.

Wrist Dislocation Symptoms

  • Wrist pain, tenderness, and swelling
  • Wrist is deformed or out-of-place
  • Inability to move wrist
  • Numbness and weakness in the hand

Wrist Dislocation Treatment

Treatment for a wrist dislocation varies depending on the position of the bones and if there is a fracture involved. General treatment typically includes manipulating the bone back into normal position and then immobilizing in a cast to allow the bone to heal. Many times surgical treatment is needed to repair broken bones and properly align the bones in the wrist. The hand surgeons at Emory will help identify the best treatment option for you.