Elbow Fracture (Broken Elbow; Elbow, Broken)
An elbow fracture is a break in one or more of the bones that make up the elbow joint. The bones in the elbow joint are:
Humerus—the upper arm bone Ulna—the larger of the forearm (lower arm) bones Radius—the smaller bone in the forearm The Elbow Joint
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This is caused by trauma to the elbow bones. Trauma can be caused by:
Falling on an outstretched arm Falling directly on the elbow Experiencing a direct blow to the elbow Twisting the elbow beyond the normal range of motion
These factors increase your chance of developing an elbow fracture. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:
Advancing age Decreased muscle mass Osteoporosis
or other conditions)
menopause Playing certain sports (eg, football, hockey, wrestling, gymnastics)
Pain, often severe Tenderness, swelling, and bruising around the elbow Numbness in fingers, hand, or forearm Decreased range of motion A lump or visible deformity over the fracture site
The doctor will ask about your symptoms, physical activity, and how the injury occurred. The area will be examined.
Tests may include:
—a test that uses radiation to take a picture of structures inside the body, especially bones; used to look for a break in the elbow area
—a test that uses computers to make pictures of structures inside the elbow; used to look at the cartilage and tendons around the elbow
depends on how severe the injury is. Treatment involves:
Putting the pieces of the bone back in position, which may require
Keeping the pieces together while the bone heals
These devices may be used to hold the bone in place while it heals:
A cast or splint (may be used with or without surgery) A metal plate with screws (requires surgery) Screws alone (requires surgery)
Depending on the level of pain, your doctor may prescribe medication.
More x-rays will be done to be sure the bones have not shifted.
Start range-of-motion and
exercises.—Your doctor will tell you when you are ready to start exercising. You may be referred to a physical therapist.
strengthening Do not return to sports until you are completely healed.
It takes about 8-10 weeks for a fractured elbow to heal.
To help prevent elbow fractures:
Do not put yourself at risk for a trauma to the elbow.
Eat a diet rich in
Build strong muscles to prevent falls and to stay active and agile.
Last reviewed November 2008 by
John C. Keel, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a
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