Current concepts in diagnosis, classification, and treatment of acute complex elbow dislocation: A review

Jeannette M. Joly, Melissa A. Wright, Anand M. Murthi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Complex elbow dislocations involve periarticular fractures in addition to capsuloligamentous disruption. These dislocations can result from a simple fall on an outstretched hand or from high-energy trauma, and the pattern of injury is affected by the direction of the force causing the injury. Fracture patterns in complex elbow dislocations vary based on whether the injury is posterolateral, anterior, posteromedial, or medial. The primary goals of care in treating complex elbow dislocations include restoring anatomical alignment of the ulnohumeral and radiocapitellar joints, providing stability, and facilitating early motion after definitive treatment. Depending on fracture pattern and joint stability, definitive treatment can be nonoperative with closed reduction and bracing or operative with capsuloligamentous repair, open reduction and internal fixation of fractures, arthroplasty, or application of an external fixator. Common complications include neurovascular injury, chronic instability, posttraumatic arthritis, compartment syndrome, stiffness, and heterotopic ossification. Understanding how best to treat each type of complex elbow dislocation is essential to optimizing long-term elbow mobility and function while avoiding potential complications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14-19
Number of pages6
JournalCurrent Orthopaedic Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 12 2022


  • Elbow dislocation
  • Elbow fracture
  • Elbow instability
  • Elbow reconstruction
  • Terrible triad


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