The elbow is one of the most complicated joints. It is formed by the humerus, radius, and ulna bones. Elbow fractures can result from falls, direct blows, or twisting injury, and might be accompanied by ligament injuries as well, as is the case with dislocations.
Pain, swelling, bruising, and stiffness can be associated with a fracture. Following a thorough physical examination, your physician will use X-rays to identify any bony injuries. A CT scan might be used to show more detail about complicated fracture patterns.
Treatment of elbow fractures depends upon the age of the patient and the characteristics of the fractures. Children, for example, usually do not develop stiffness of the elbow quickly, and therefore the elbow can be casted for a short period of time. However, adult elbows are prone to stiffness, so treatment is aimed at stablizing the fracture and getting the elbow moving right away.
Olecranon fractures, or fractures of the ulna (what most people think of as the “elbow bone”), can be treated with splinting and early motion if they are stable and not displaced. The triceps muscle that extends the elbow attaches to this bone, so that is a major consideration. Displaced or unstable fractures are fixed surgically with pins and wires or plates and screws.
Listen to Dr. Rohde’s June 18, 2009 interview about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s elbow fracture with EmpowHer.com’s Todd Hartley here.