Olecranon (Elbow) Fractures

Three bones, the humerus, radius and ulna make up the elbow joint. The bones are held together by ligaments, which provide stability to the joint. Muscles and tendons around the bones help coordinate the movements and help in performing various activities. Elbow fractures may occur from trauma, resulting from various reasons, some of them being a fall on an outstretched arm, a direct blow to the elbow or an abnormal twist to the joint beyond its functional limit.

Olecranon fractures: These are fractures occurring at the bony prominence of the ulna. The fractures, if stable, are treated using an immobilizing splint, followed by a regimen of motion exercises. However, severe fractures require surgical repair.

Symptoms of an olecranon fracture include pain, swelling, bruising, stiffness in and around the elbow, a popping or cracking sound, and deformity of the elbow bones.

To diagnose olecranon fractures, X-rays of the joint are taken. In some cases, a CT scan may be needed for details of the joint surface.

The aim of treatment is to maximize early motion and reduce the risk of stiffness. Nonsurgical treatment options include the use of a splint or sling to immobilize the elbow during the healing process. Surgery is indicated in displaced and open fractures to realign the bones, and stabilize the joint, as well as to avoid deep infections. 

Strengthening exercises, scar massage, therapy with ultrasound, heat and ice are recommended to improve the range of motion. Splints are also used to facilitate stretching of the joint.