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Broken Elbow

Broken Elbow

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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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

Risk Factors

This condition is more common in older adults.

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

  • 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

Diagnosis

You will be asked 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

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:

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of getting an elbow fracture:

  • 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:

  • 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.
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