What is Elbow Fracture?

An elbow fracture or a broken elbow is a common injury in both adults and children. It may occur as a result of overuse (a common cause among athletes), high-energy trauma such as a motorcycle collision, a sideswipe injury, or any other direct injury to the elbow, shoulder, hand, or wrist.

An elbow fracture is a serious elbow injury that requires medical attention. Early diagnosis and treatment can help in preventing complications and later disability.

Symptoms of Elbow Fracture

A common symptom of elbow fracture is a sudden and often intense pain in the elbow and forearm. Other symptoms include swelling of the elbow or of the area immediately above or below it, deformity of the elbow or areas near it, discoloration or bruising, difficulty in moving the elbow, and numbness or decreased sensation on the forearm, hand, or fingers. Some people with elbow fracture also complain of a feeling of tightness in the area of the elbow or forearm.

Diagnosing Elbow Fracture

An elbow fracture requires immediate medical help as it can lead to serious complications and disability.

If an elbow fracture is suspected, the doctor will review one’s medical history including the nature and cause of injury. There will also be a thorough physical exam, focusing on the affected area/arm. He/she will look for the swelling, tenderness, change in color in the hand, bruising, and any limitation in movement.

X-rays are often required to see clear images of the affected site. It can help the doctor determine what kind of fracture it is and whether the bones have moved out of alignment.

How It Is Treated

Treatment for elbow fracture depends on several factors including the type of fracture and the degree of the displacement.

Nonsurgical Treatment

Nonsurgical treatment is recommended for those with stable fracture (a type of fracture on which the bones line up and are barely out of place).

The use of a splint or cast for immobilization is an example of nonsurgical treatment. In some cases, the application of splint or cast is done only after closed reduction.

Surgical Treatment

Surgery is recommended if the bone fragments are displaced. Surgical options for elbow fracture include closed reduction and percutaneous pinning and open reduction and internal fixation.