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Recurrent and Chronic Elbow Instability

The elbow is formed by the junction of the humerus (upper arm bone), and radius and ulna (forearm bones). These three bones articulate to form the elbow joint, which is held and supported by muscles and strong ligaments called the lateral ligament (on the outer side) and ulnar collateral ligament (on the inner side). Injury to these ligaments cause elbow instability and dislocation of the joint. Recurrent or chronic elbow instability is characterised by repeated looseness of the joint and feeling that it may move out of place. Other symptoms include catching, clicking or locking of the elbow. It may also be associated with a fracture of the ulna bone.

Recurrent or chronic elbow instability may be caused by trauma, falling on an outstretched arm or repeated stress as seen in sports activities that involve overhead movement of the arm.

Professor Bain would review your medical history, perform a detailed physical exam and order imaging studies (X-ray and MRI scan) to diagnose recurrent elbow instability.

Non-surgical treatment with bracing, NSAIDs, activity modification and physiotherapy may be all that you need to manage your instability. However it is common that the ligaments require surgery, such as repairs the ligament and stabilisation of the elbow fractures with pins or screws. In some cases, a joint replacement of the radial head or ligament replaces and reconstruction of the damaged ligament with a tissue graft is required.