DAVE WATTS, MD
The elbow joint has three bones including humerus, radius, and ulna. These bones are held by ligaments to provide stability to the joint. The bones, tendons, and muscles of the elbow coordinate to help the movements, helping with different daily activities. There can be many reasons for elbow fractures including trauma, falling of the patient with an outstretched arm, unusual joint twist beyond the functional limit, or a direct blow to the elbow.
Types of Elbow Fractures
These are the types of elbow fractures treated by orthopedic doctors.
Distal Humerus Fractures
Children and older adults mostly get affected by distal humerus fractures. Sometimes, elbow fractures can result in damage to the nerves and arteries in the impacted area. Surgery can at times further complicate these displaced fractures and compound them with nerve and artery injuries.
Symptoms of Distal Humerus Fractures
The common symptoms associated with elbow fracture including bruising, stiffness, swelling, pain, popping sound upon movement, or deformity in the elbow bones.
Diagnosis of Distal Humerus Fractures
The orthopedic doctor uses X-ray or CT-Scan to get more details about the joint’s surface.
The fractures occurring at the bony prominence of the ulna are called olecranon fractures. The surgeon first stabilizes the elbow using a splint and tries to treat it using different types of motion exercises. However, if the exercises fail to yield results, the surgeon may recommend repair through a surgical procedure.
Radial Head and Neck Fractures
The fractures occurring at the head of the radius bone are called radial head and neck fractures. These kinds of elbow fractures are the most painful and seriously restrict arm or elbow movement. The surgeon will only recommend surgery for displaced fractures. Early motion treats the mild fractures. Surgery is the only option when aligning the fragments or displacing fractures to repair. In severe radial head and neck fractures, the surgeon may advise removal or replacement of the radial head.
Treatment Options for Elbow Fractures
One of the primary aims of treating the elbow is to maximize mobility and reduce stiffness. The surgeon may suggest non-surgical treatment using splint or sling. Sometimes, surgery becomes inevitable due to displaced or open fractures. The doctor may also recommend strengthening exercises, ultrasound therapy, ice, and heat.