Elbow radiograph (summary approach)

Dr Owen Kang and Dr Jeremy Jones et al.

Elbow radiographs are common plain films that are obtained frequently in the emergency department.

Summary approach

  • alignment
  • effusion
    • visible posterior fat pad always indicates an elbow effusion
    • if there is an effusion, think acute intra-articular fracture
    • small anterior fat pad may be seen in normal patients
      • only significant if massively raised
  • bones
    • look specifically for common fractures
      • radial head and neck fractures
      • olecranon fracture
  • cortex
    • trace the cortex of each bone
      • distal humerus​
      • radial head, neck and shaft
      • olecranon, coronoid process and ulnar shaft 
Medical student radiology curriculum
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Article information

rID: 28509
Section: Approach
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Elbow radiographs (an approach)

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Cases and figures

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    Case 1: radial head fracture
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    Case 2: elbow dislocation
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    Case 3: elbow dislocation with coronoid process fracture
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    Visualization of ...
    Case 4: olecranon fracture
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    Case 5: radial head dislocation
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