An elbow fracture is a break in one of the bones which form the elbow joint. There are three bones which could be broken: the Humerus, Ulna and Radius.
This elbow injury can be caused by a fall or a hard impact, and especially because there can be further potential complications, medical assistance should be sought immediately.
Due to several main nerves and arteries passing very close to the bones of the elbow, complications due to damage to these structures is common. Any elbow fractured should be fully examined to check for associated injuries
The most common elbow fractures include:
- Radial Head
- Coronoid Process
Fractures of the Coronoid Process
The coronoid process is a protrusion of bone on the Ulna, at the front end of the ‘cup’ in which the end of the humerus sits. This part is fractured through a fall onto a straightened elbow and is often associated with an elbow dislocation.
- Tenderness and swelling over the front of the elbow joint.
- Non-displaced fractures can be treated with immobilisation in a cast for 3-4 weeks. Displaced bone fragments may require surgery.
An intercondylar fracture is a break to the Humerus (upper arm) bone, between the medial and lateral condyles at the lower end of the bone. Fractures here are described as being Y or T shaped and have varying degrees of displacement of the fractured bone segment.
This injury is usually caused by a blow to a flexed elbow.The patient will usually be holding their arm in a flexed position with the palm facing downwards. The forearm may appear shorter than the other one.
Treatment usually involves surgery as the fragment is usually displaced
The two prominent parts of the Humerus on either side of the elbow are known as the Epicondyles (or just condyles). A condylar fracture is a break to one of these bones. The outer (lateral) condyle is more likely to fracture than the inner (medial) one.
Injury to both is due to impacts or falls.Symptoms include:Pain, swelling and a limited range of motion.
It is common to feel a crunching feeling or sound when trying to bend the elbow.In non-displaced fractures immobilisation in a cast or splint is sufficient. If the fragment has become displaced then surgery is required.
The Capitellum is the rounded lower end of the Humerus, which articulates with the Radius of the forearm.
Fractures to this area occur most often through a fall onto an outstretched hand.
- Pain and swelling at the front of the elbow.
- Most fractures are displaced and so require surgical fixation
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