Dislocated elbow and small children

Thomas Grogan, MD Orthopedic Surgeon, shares advice for parents on how dislocated elbows can be common in young kids, how to tell if your child has one, and how to treat it
Dislocated Elbows In Small Children - Nursemaid Elbow
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Dislocated elbow and small children

One of the most common issues that happens especially in very young children is called a nursemaid elbow. And what that means is an injury that occurs to small children when they have longitudinal pull to the limb. And what happens is in the anatomy of a small child, the radius, which is one of the two bones in the forearm, has a very small ligament that holds it together at the elbow. And when you pull on the end of the arm or hand, that head can pull literally out of the ligament. And the arm hurts, and the kid is holding it in a very classic position. They bend the elbow at 90 degrees. They hold the thumb against the stomach and they just simply don´t want to move because it hurts. It´s very easy to repair. You simply bring the arm out straight. You put the palm to the ceiling. Bring the palm to the should and it will snap back in position as you come towards the shoulder. The interesting thing is that once it happens, it tends to happen again up until about age five or six. And at age five or six, the elbow has matured enough and grown enough that it tends not to happen anymore. But it´s very common. It´s one of the big reasons you never either want to pull on an outstretched arm of a small child or do the old helicopter game where we used to twirl them around by holding the hands. That´s very common for how that can happen, a nursemaid elbow. So it´s not serious. A nursemaid elbow is something that happens a lot and is easily taken care of. But just recognize it can be prevented just simply by not pulling on the arm.

Thomas Grogan, MD Orthopedic Surgeon, shares advice for parents on how dislocated elbows can be common in young kids, how to tell if your child has one, and how to treat it


Expert Bio

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Thomas Grogan, MD

Orthopedic Surgeon

Dr. Grogan is a practicing pediatric orthopedist in Santa Monica, California. He has seen over 40,000 patients in his practice alone. Dr. Grogan graduated cum laude from Princeton University with a degree in Biology and received his medical degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.  Dr. Grogan’s orthopedic training has included an orthopedic residency at UCLA plus several orthopedic fellowships in pediatric orthopedics, trauma, and NIH sponsored joint replacement surgery. Following his orthopedic training he returned to Los Angeles, spending six years at Shriner’s Hospital for Crippled Children, including serving as Assistant Chief in 1996 and 1997. In addition to his clinical practice, he spent several years involved in managed care consulting as an orthopedic surgeon and has developed special expertise in this area. He has collaborated with the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons in the development of a handbook and audiotape entitled, Health Care Reform and Managed Care: A Guidebook for Orthopedic Surgeons. In addition, he has served as the lead faculty member for the AAOS for their 1995, 12 city educational seminar, “Taking Charge: Managed Care Contracting for Orthopaedic Surgeons” and as a faculty member for the AAOS’s 1996 seminar series entitled, “Winning at Risk: The Interplay of Cost, Quality, and Access in Orthopaedic Practice”.  He most recently served as a faculty member for the AAOS’s 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 seminars, “Practice Management Symposium for Practicing Orthopaedic Surgeons’. He is currently chairman of the Practice Management Committee for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and a member of their Council on Education. He is a member of Alpha Omega Alpha, Honor Medical Society, the Sigma XI Scientific Research Society, California Orthopaedic Association (COA), the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America (POSNA), the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), and is a diplomate of the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery.

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