Distal Humerus Fractures of the Elbow

The elbow is a region between the upper arm and the fore arm. The elbow joint is made up of 3 bones. The distal (lower) end of the humerus bone in the upper arm joins with the radius and ulna bones in the fore arm to form the elbow joint. The elbow joint is very important for the movement of your arms and for coordination of daily activities. Injury in the distal humerus can cause impairment in the function of the elbow joint. Distal humerus fracture is a rare condition which occurs when there is break in the lower end of the humerus. The treatment of distal humerus fracture aims at restoration of normal anatomy.

Causes

A distal humerus fracture may result due to a fall. This occurs more often when you land directly on your elbow during the fall or when you get struck by a hard object. It can also happen when you fall on your outstretched arm with the elbow locked straight.

Symptoms

Distal humerus fractures are usually very painful. The common symptoms are swelling, bruising, stiffness, tenderness, severe pain and inability to move the arm.

Diagnosis

Distal humerus fractures are generally considered an emergency condition. Your doctor might examine the skin to check for any cuts and feel it to determine the presence of broken bones or injuries. Your doctor might recommend an X-ray examination to determine the depth (intact or broken bones) of the fracture.

Treatment

Distal humerus fractures can be treated by both non-surgical and surgical methods based on the intensity of the fracture.

Non-surgical Treatment

If the fracture has not caused displacement of the bone, then your doctor might apply a splint (a casting) and you may be required to wear a sling until complete healing and recovery occurs.

Surgical Treatment

Your doctor might recommend surgery if the fracture has led to the displacement of bone and pieces of the bone have exited the skin. During surgery, the displaced bone or pieces of bone are joined together with the help of metal screws and plates. You may also be given antibiotics to avoid the risk of infection.

Prevention

Care should be taken while you walk or run and especially while climbing up/down the stairs. This can prevent you from falling and eventually from accidental fractures.

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