elbow (examination of the elbow joint)

Last reviewed 01/2018

The clinical examination of the elbow should comprise:

  • complete exposure of both upper limbs
  • look - valgus or varus deformity; carrying angle is measured with a goniometer, average values being 11 degrees for males and 13 degrees for females - wasting or swelling - localised swelling e.g. rheumatoid nodules
  • feel - temperature, nodules, synovial thickening, tenderness - palpate the ulnar nerve behind the medial condyle for thickening or hypersensitivity - there should be an equilateral triangle formed between the epicondyles and the olecranon - if not, consider subluxation
  • move - active and passive - compare both sides for flexion, extension and radioulnar supination and pronation; the normal ranges are respectively: 145, 0 (straight), 80 and 75 degrees respectively

  • if indicated, test neurology and pulses distal to the elbow.

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