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 radiographic 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.
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