Three bones, the humerus, radius and ulna, make up the elbow joint. Elbow fractures may occur from trauma due to various reasons such as a fall on an outstretched arm, a direct blow to the elbow or an abnormal twist to the joint beyond its functional limit. The types of elbow fractures include:
Symptoms of an elbow fracture include pain, bruising, stiffness, swelling in and around the elbow, a popping or cracking sound, numbness or weakness in the arm, wrist and hand, and deformity of the elbow bones.
To diagnose an elbow fracture, X-rays of the joint are taken. In some cases, a CT scan may be needed to view the details of the joint surface.
The aim of treatment is to maximize early motion and reduce the risk of stiffness. Nonsurgical treatment options include pain medication, ice application, the use of a splint or a sling to immobilize the elbow during the healing process, and physical therapy. Surgery is indicated in displaced and open fractures to realign the bones, and stabilize the joint with screws, plates, pins and wires. Strengthening exercises are recommended to improve the range of motion.