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Radial Head Subluxation (Nursemaid’s Elbow)

Radial Head Subluxation (Nursemaid’s Elbow) is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Pediatric Consult.

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  • Cause of acute upper extremity immobility and elbow injury in young children that results from axial traction on an extended arm
  • Also called “nursemaid’s elbow,” “babysitter’s elbow,” “toddler elbow” “pulled elbow,” “annular ligament displacement”


  • Most common upper extremity injury among children <6 years of age
  • Peak incidence: 2 to 3 years of age
  • Age range: 0 to 11 years of age

Risk Factors

  • Female sex
  • Obesity

General Prevention

Avoid pulling child by arm; lift child from axilla.


Annular ligament in young children is more loosely connected to radial head.


“Pull” on the arm or axial traction results in displacement of the annular ligament over the radial head, trapping it in the radiocapitellar joint, causing pain and refusal to move arm.

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Cabana, Michael D., editor. "Radial Head Subluxation (Nursemaid’s Elbow)." 5-Minute Pediatric Consult, 8th ed., Wolters Kluwer, 2019. Pediatrics Central, peds.unboundmedicine.com/pedscentral/view/5-Minute-Pediatric-Consult/618215/all/Radial_Head_Subluxation__Nursemaid’s_Elbow_.
Radial Head Subluxation (Nursemaid’s Elbow). In: Cabana MD, ed. 5-Minute Pediatric Consult. 8th ed. Wolters Kluwer; 2019. https://peds.unboundmedicine.com/pedscentral/view/5-Minute-Pediatric-Consult/618215/all/Radial_Head_Subluxation__Nursemaid’s_Elbow_. Accessed April 23, 2019.
Radial Head Subluxation (Nursemaid’s Elbow). (2019). In Cabana, M. D. (Ed.), 5-Minute Pediatric Consult. Available from https://peds.unboundmedicine.com/pedscentral/view/5-Minute-Pediatric-Consult/618215/all/Radial_Head_Subluxation__Nursemaid’s_Elbow_
Radial Head Subluxation (Nursemaid’s Elbow) [Internet]. In: Cabana MD, editors. 5-Minute Pediatric Consult. Wolters Kluwer; 2019. [cited 2019 April 23]. Available from: https://peds.unboundmedicine.com/pedscentral/view/5-Minute-Pediatric-Consult/618215/all/Radial_Head_Subluxation__Nursemaid’s_Elbow_.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - ELEC T1 - Radial Head Subluxation (Nursemaid’s Elbow) ID - 618215 ED - Cabana,Michael D, BT - 5-Minute Pediatric Consult UR - https://peds.unboundmedicine.com/pedscentral/view/5-Minute-Pediatric-Consult/618215/all/Radial_Head_Subluxation__Nursemaid’s_Elbow_ PB - Wolters Kluwer ET - 8 DB - Pediatrics Central DP - Unbound Medicine ER -