Can elbow extension be used as a test of clinically significant injury?

South Med J. 2002 May;95(5):539-41.


Background: The objective of this study was to evaluate whether a simple test of full elbow extension was a reliable indicator of bone/joint injury at the elbow joint.

Methods: In this prospective study, patients with acute elbow injuries were asked to fully extend the injured elbow. Radiologists blinded to the results of the extension test interpreted the radiographs.

Results: Of 114 patients with acute elbow injury entered into the study, 110 underwent adiographic evaluation. Inability to extend the elbow was found in 37 of 38 patients with bone injury. Only 1 of 54 patients who were able to fully extend the elbow was found to have bone/joint injury. The sensitivity and specificity of the elbow-extension test for identification of bone/joint injury was 97% and 69%, respectively.

Conclusions: The elbow-extension test can be used as a sensitive clinical screening test for patients with acute elbow injuries.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Arm Injuries / diagnosis
  • Elbow Injuries*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Examination / methods*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Sensitivity and Specificity