Elbow Fracture

Overview

Definition

An elbow fracture is a break in one or more of the bones that make up the elbow joint.

The Elbow Joint
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Causes

This injury is caused by trauma from:

  • Falling directly on the elbow
  • A direct blow to the elbow
  • Falling on an outstretched arm
  • A motor vehicle accident

Risk Factors

Things that may raise your risk are:

  • Having a health problem that may result in falls, such as weak muscles
  • Playing some sports, such as football, hockey, wrestling, or gymnastics

SymptomsandDiagnosis

Symptoms

Symptoms may be:

  • Pain that is worse with movement
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Problems moving the arm
  • Numbness in the fingers, hand, or arm
  • A change in the way the elbow looks

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked how the injury happened. An exam will be done that will focus on your elbow.

Images may be taken of your elbow. This can be done with:

  • X-rays
  • CT scan

Treatments

Treatment

It will take eight to ten weeks to heal. The goals of treatment are to manage pain and support the bone as it heals. This may include:

  • Medicine to ease pain
  • A cast, splint, or sling to keep the elbow in place as it heals
  • Exercises to help with strength and range of motion

Children's bones have growth plates that let bones grow and harden with age. A child with a fracture may need to be checked over time to make sure the bone heals the right way and keeps growing.

Putting Bones Back In Place

Some fractures cause pieces of bone to come apart. These pieces will need to be put back into place. This may be done:

  • Without surgery—anesthesia will be used to decrease pain while the doctor moves the pieces back into place
  • With surgery—pins, wires, plates, screws, or stitches in the bone or tendons may be needed to reconnect the pieces and hold them in place

Prevention

Most fractures are due to accidents. Healthy muscles may prevent injury. This may be done through exercise.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.

a (Broken Elbow; Elbow, Broken)

RESOURCES

American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine http://www.sportsmed.org 

Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://www.orthoinfo.org 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://www.coa-aco.org 

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation http://www.canorth.org 

References

Distal radius fracture—emergency management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:  https://www.dynamed.com/management/distal-radius-fracture-emergency-management  . Accessed September 24, 2019.

Elbow fractures in children. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00037. Updated June 2019. Accessed September 24, 2019.

Elbow (olecranon) fractures. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00503. Updated November 2016. Accessed September 24, 2019.

Niver GE, Ilyas AM. Carpal tunnel syndrome after distal radius fracture. Orthop Clin North Am. 2012 Oct;43(4):521-527.