Medical Definition of Nursemaid's elbow

Reviewed on 3/29/2021

Nursemaid's elbow: Partial dislocation of the elbow. The radius (a bone in the forearm) slips out of the ligament that holds it in place at the elbow. This is common in children under 4 years of age. It may be due to an adult lifting or swinging the child by one hand and can also occur when an infant rolls over or falls. The child begins to cry immediately and holds the arm slightly bent at the elbow with the forearm against the abdomen. Treatment is for the physician to reduce the dislocation. Once a child has had nursemaid's elbow, it may recur.

The term nursemaid's elbow harks back to the days when a nursemaid (nanny) was not a rarity. The condition today should probably be called babysitter's elbow. It is also known as dislocation of the radial head, elbow dislocation, pulled elbow, radial head subluxation, slipped elbow, or toddler elbow.



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