If you’ve suffered a direct blow to your elbow or tried to break a fall with it, you could have fractured it. An elbow fracture is a break in one of the bones that form the elbow. It usually occurs in the bony protrusion of the elbow.
Symptoms of an elbow fracture include pain, swelling, bruising, tenderness, and a feeling of your elbow getting weaker or about to give out. The severity of the symptoms and the physical appearance of the elbow usually gives clues as to the severity of the fracture.
Here’s everything you need to know about an elbow fracture.
The elbow consists of three bones, the upper arm bone (humerus), the forearm bone on the thumb side (radius), and the forearm bone on the pinky side (ulna). The elbow functions like a hinge and allows forearm movements such as facing the palm up and down. Again, the most commonly fractured part of the elbow is the ulna or olecranon — the part that becomes more pronounced when you bend your elbow. However, the humerus and the radial bones can also break.
Types of Fractures
A bone break is either non-displaced, where the bone maintains its alignment, or displaced, where the broken bone completely separates (and may even pierce the skin) and will need to be set by the doctor. Fractures are further classified into type I (the bone remains intact), type II (slightly displaced bone), type III (more than three pieces of the bone are displaced). Treatment will depend on the severity of the fracture.
To diagnose an elbow fracture, the doctor will order an X-ray. The images will reveal the severity of the break. It will also help them plan your treatment. The doctor will likely order X-rays of the upper arm, shoulder, wrist, and hand, especially if the injury was due to an incident that could have also injured other parts of your upper extremity.
To heal a fracture, the bone needs to be in alignment and should be immobilized. Depending on the type of break, you may need to wear a cast or splint for at least six weeks. Displaced fractures usually need surgery to realign the broken pieces, which is an open reduction procedure. Then, they will be fixed with metal screws or plates, which is called an internal fixation procedure. If some pieces of bone are beyond repair, the doctor may perform a bone graft, which involves taking a piece of bone from another part of your body and transferring it to the elbow. A fractured radial head can be replaced with an artificial part to restore function.
Physical therapy and rehabilitation are part of recovery with either non-surgical or surgical elbow fracture treatment.
Elbow Fracture Treatment in San Antonio, TX
The orthopaedic surgeons at the Center for Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine can treat all types of elbow fractures and provide rehabilitation services, so you can use your elbow normally again. Schedule an appointment by calling our clinic at (210) 692-7400 or sending an appointment request online now.