Elbow injuries are characterized by swelling, elbow pain, limited range of motion, deformity, and stiffness. There may be clicking, grinding, catching, shifting, locking, and signs of instability of the elbow and arm. Neurologic findings such as weakness, paresthesias, numbness, or paralysis typically point to nerve damage or nerve entrapment.
Elbow injuries can be caused by traumatic impact, sudden twisting motion, overload, and overuse. These injuries may be caused by playing sports or exercising, as in lateral epicondylitis. They are also seen in occupations that involve repetitive-load motions, as in medial epicondylitis and olecranon bursitis.
Elbow injuries may be difficult to diagnose due to the complexity of multiple articulations and support structures converging at the elbow. Injuries include sprain, dislocation, contusion, fracture, crush injury, ligament tear, and tendon rupture. Examples are ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) injury or tear, nursemaid's elbow (radial head subluxation, pulled elbow), osteochondritis dissecans (bone chip in the elbow), supracondylar humerus fracture, and terrible triad elbow injury (dislocated elbow and fractures of radial head and coronoid).
Management depends on the specific injury, often requiring referral to a specialist. Analgesics, corticosteroids, icing, immobilization, compression, elevation, and rest may be used to quell pain and inflammation. Other treatments may be surgical (open reduction, internal fixation, ligament repair, release of entrapped nerve) and/or nonsurgical (closed reduction, splinting, casting, pain management, physical therapy). Posttraumatic elbow contracture is not uncommon following elbow injury, with or without surgical treatment.
For children and adolescents, refer to a pediatric specialist for injuries to growth plate, severe open fracture, or neurovascular involvement.
S59.909A – Unspecified injury of unspecified elbow, initial encounter
125596004 – Injury of elbow