Distal Humerus Fracture: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Distal humerus fracture refers to a break in the upper arm bone or the humerus. The three bones, humerus, radius and the ulna together, form the elbow joint and the base of the humerus is called the distal humerus. The bones are held together by ligaments, muscles and tendons. The distal humerus fits into the cup shaped part of the ulna and enables the elbow to move or bend. Fractures of the distal humerus are rare and generally occur in association with other arm injuries.

Causes

  • Falling directly on an outstretched hand
  • Vehicular accidents
  • Sports injuries
  • A direct hit to the elbow joint

Symptoms

  • Bruising or skin discoloration
  • Inability to move the elbow
  • The joint may feel unstable
  • The fractured bone may protrude out of the skin, in severe cases
  • Severe pain
  • The area around the joint may be tender to touch
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling, numbness or joint disfigurement may be seen

Diagnosis

  • Clinical examination of the injured arm to check for the severity of injury
  • Palpation may be done to assess the exact location of tenderness and pain
  • The pulse rate may help to analyze disruption of blood flow to the limb
  • X-ray may be conducted to point out the exact location and extent of damage
  • MRI scan may be required if damage to soft tissues is suspected

Treatment

The treatment of distal humerus fracture may depend upon the type of injury and damage caused to the bone as well as soft tissues. Non-surgical procedures may include:

  • A splint may be used to keep the joint stable during the healing period
  • Cryotherapy- application of ice packs at regular intervals
  • Pain killers and anti-inflammatory medicines may be prescribed to relieve pain
  • Antibiotics may be prescribed in case of infection of an open wound
  • The patient should avoid lifting weights for a few weeks

Surgical procedures may be required in case of an open fracture. The following procedures may be recommended:

  • Using minimally invasive techniques, metal pins, screws and wires may be inserted into the joint to stabilize the bone
  • Bone Fillers- In case the bone is badly crushed, a piece of bone may be taken from another body part such as pelvis and inserted into the joint. Alternatively, artificial bone mass made up of calcium may be used
  • Surgical replacement of the elbow may be suggested if the joint is damaged beyond repair
  • Physical therapy may be helpful in regaining joint strength and mobility post-surgery

For effective treatment of distal humerus fracture, visit OrthoTexas. To schedule an appointment with the orthopedic surgeons in Flower Mound, TX, you can call at (972) 899 – 4679.

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