Pulled Elbow (Partial Dislocation of the Radius Head)

Introduction to Pulled Elbow

Pulled elbow, known medically as the partial dislocation of the radius head, often occurs in children aged 3 to 5 years. This condition usually arises due to the child’s arm being pulled.

Pulled Elbow

How Partial Dislocation Occurs

In some cases, parents might lift the child from the ground by grabbing the child’s wrist or forearm. For example, when a mother intends to cross a water channel, she may grab the child’s forearm and lift it to the other side. This action can stretch the child’s forearm, potentially leading to a strain in the elbow joint and displacement of the radius head.

Symptoms of Partial Dislocation in Children

The most common sign of a pulled elbow is that the child starts crying and does not move their arm at all. If the child is asked to grab something, they prefer using the other hand and try to minimize movement in the injured arm.

Treatment of Elbow Strain in Children

Elbow strain in children is a condition that requires special attention and treatment. The primary treatment involves rotating the forearm outward.

Treatment Method by the Doctor

The treating doctor first bends the child’s elbow. Then, by holding the forearm, the doctor rotates it outward so that the child’s palm faces upwards. Simultaneously, with the thumb of the other hand, pressure is applied from above to the head of the radius bone. Once the radius head is repositioned, the child’s pain suddenly disappears, crying ceases, and they can move their hand easily.

Difference Between Partial and Complete Dislocation

This condition differs from a complete dislocation of the radius head. In essence, a partial dislocation means a minor displacement of the radius head, which still maintains some of its contact with the lateral condyle. After treatment, there is no need to bandage or splint the child’s hand.

Prevention and Parental Cautions

Parents should be careful not to pull on the child’s hand, as these children are at risk of recurring this condition in the future. As the child ages and reaches school age, the propensity for elbow partial dislocation typically decreases.

Dr. Nader Motallebizadeh

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