Elbow Fractures: Types, Causes, Symptoms and Management

13 August 2013
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13 August 2013, Comments: 0

Elbow fractures are quite common in both adults and children. It does not Elbow Fractureshave much protection from muscles or other soft tissues, thus, direct blow to the elbows or falls on a bent elbow can easily lead to fracture. The elbow joint consists of three bones: humerus in the upper arm and radius and ulna in the forearm. There are ligaments, muscles and tendons that sustain the elbow’s stability and allow joint movement.

The normal elbow joint allowed for bending, straightening and rotation. Fractures, not to mention dislocations, can result to damage to the movement, function of blood vessels and function of nerves. Early recognition and management of elbow fractures can minimize risk of complications and even disabilities.

Types of Elbow Fractures

There are different types of elbow fractures:

  • Open (compound) fracture
    • Bone breaks through the skin
    • Nondisplaced
      • There is a crack or break in the bone but stays in place
      • Displaced
        • The two ends of the broken bone are separated
        • Comminuted
          • Bone is broken into many pieces

Causes of Elbow Fractures

Although it is fairly easy to break the elbows, the following are the most common causes of elbow fractures:

  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Sports accidents
  • Falling onto an outstretched hand with a  bent elbow
  • In the future, osteoporosis increases risk

Symptoms of Elbow Fractures

The symptoms of elbow fractures are similar to those of any fractured bone in the body, which include:

  • A snap felt or pop heard at the time of the injury
  • Pain that increases with movement or pressure
  • Tenderness, especially when touched
  • Swelling and bruising, which usually appears within 30 minutes of injury
  • Difficulty moving the arm or inability to move the arm at all
  • Weakness in the elbow, arm, or hand
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Cool, pale or cyanosis of the elbow, forearm or arm of the affected side
  • Decreased pulse or no pulse detected
  • Deformity

First Aid Management for Elbow Fractures

Recovery time for an elbow fracture, similar to other fractures, will depend on a person’s age, health, and type and intensity of fracture. If the elbow fracture is severe, call for emergency medical services. However, applying first aid as soon as the fracture occurs can help speed up recovery time. To apply first aid, the following method can be followed:

  • If there is an open wound, apply direct pressure to the bleeding area using a dry, sterile cloth. If possible, raise the affected arm above heart level.
  • To limit swelling, place an ice pack to the swollen area. Do not apply ice directly to the skin.
  • Immobilize the fractured area. If one is trained to apply a splint, do so. Rolled-up newspaper and cut cardboard box to the proper size may be used as splint.
  • Do not attempt to move the bone to its original position as it may just lead to damages. If the bone is protruding, do not attempt to push back.

Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only and not meant to substitute for medical advice or first aid training. To learn how to treat and manage elbow fractures and other fractures in the body, enroll in First Aid Training.

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