Elbow Fracture

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:

  • Causes

    Elbow fractures are 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

  • Definition

    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 bones
    • Radius — the smaller bone in the forearm
    The Elbow Joint
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  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms, physical activity, and how the injury occurred. The area will be examined.

    Imaging tests may include:

    • X-rays to look for a break in the elbow area
    • CT scan to look at the cartilage and tendons around the elbow

  • Prevention

    To help reduce your chance of getting an elbow fracture, take these steps:

    • Do not put yourself at risk for a trauma to the elbow
    • Exercise regularly to maintain strength, agility, and to prevent falls
    • Learn the proper technique and wear protective equipment for exercise and sporting activities

    To help reduce falling hazards at work and home, take these steps:

    • Clean spills and slippery areas right away
    • Remove tripping hazards such as loose cords, rugs, and clutter
    • Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and shower
    • Install grab bars next to the toilet and in the shower or tub
    • Put in handrails on both sides of stairways
    • Walk only in well-lit rooms, stairs, and halls
    • Keep flashlights on hand in case of a power outage

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your risk of getting an elbow fracture include:

    • Advancing age
    • Osteoporosis
    • Certain diseases or conditions that result in bone or mineral loss, such as abnormal or absent menstrual cycles, or post-menopause
    • Certain diseases and conditions that weaken bones, such as tumors or cysts
    • Decreased muscle mass
    • Playing certain sports, such as football, hockey, wrestling, or gymnastics

  • Symptoms

    Elbow fracture may cause:

    • 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

  • Treatment

    Proper treatment can prevent long-term complications or problems with your elbow. Treatment will depend on how serious the fracture is, but may include: