Elbow Fractures

  • Introduction

  • Conservative Treatment

  • Surgical Treatment

Elbow injuries are common since a fall onto an outstretched hand or the elbow can cause sprains, strains, dislocation and fractures. Elbow fractures are seen in patients of all age groups and are often the result of a direct blow to the elbow. The location of the fracture can vary, occurring above the elbow, at the elbow or below the elbow along the forearm.

A fracture dislocation occurs when the bone is broken and the joint dislocates. An open fracture, also known as a compound fracture, occurs when the break occurs along with a break in the skin. In children, growth plate fractures are common due to the lack of maturity of the bone. Children are more susceptible to elbow fractures because of their level of activity and the fragile bone structure. Growth plates in children have not developed into mature bones which makes them more susceptible to injury.

The cause of an elbow fracture varies, depending on the initial point of impact. The elbow joint is comprised of three bones, the humerus, ulna and radius. These three bones are held together by sets of ligaments, tendons, and muscles, keeping them aligned. Depending on the severity of the injury one or all of these parts can be damaged. Normal symptoms associated with elbow fractures are pain, swelling, tenderness to touch, pain with motion, numbness in the hand, bruising and an inability to straighten or bend the elbow.

Elbow fractures vary and depending on the location, displacement, age and activity level of the patient, various treatments can be applied. Most injuries require an application of a splint to hinder mobilization initially, a sling to keep the elbow in place and an ice pack to help with swelling. Most elbow fractures result in stiffness of the joint. The stiffness

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Surgery is often required when elbow fractures cannot be treated with conservative measures. Surgery is done under some form of anesthesia then an incision is made to reposition the pieces of bones. Plates, screws, pins, wires and/or sutures can be used to realign and help the bone stay in place. A specialized physician should determine which treatment is appropriate.

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