Elbow Fracture Care in Pittsburgh, PA
Elbow fractures are common injuries that often result from a fall onto an outstretched hand. The force of the fall can cause a bone, usually the ulna in the forearm, to break away from its attachment point in the elbow joint. The injury is fairly easy to recognize; symptoms include extreme pain in the elbow or forearm, swelling in the elbow, loss of sensation in the hand, and an inability to fully straighten the arm.
If an elbow fracture is suspected, it is important to seek medical care right away. A delay in treatment can increase the risk of lasting damage.
Types of Elbow Fractures
During the diagnostic process, a physician will consider several aspects of the fracture to determine its type, which may be a:
- Supracondylar fracture – A break in the upper arm bone (humerus) at its narrowest point just above the elbow
- Lateral condylar fracture – A break in the lower humerus near the elbow
- Medial epicondylar avulsion fracture – A break inside the bony protrusion (epicondyle) on the pinky side of the elbow
- Forearm fracture – A break in one or both of the forearm bones (radius and ulna)
- Monteggia fracture – A dislocation of the radial head from the elbow joint
- Open fracture – A broken bone that has punctured the skin
Nonsurgical Care for an Elbow Fracture
Many elbow fractures can be treated conservatively with a:
- Closed reduction – A physician manipulates the broken bone back into its proper position.
- Splint – Often used before a cast is applied, a splint supports the broken bone while allowing for adjustments to accommodate swelling.
- Cast – The arm is immobilized to prevent the broken bone from shifting out of place as it heals.
After treatment, the fracture will be periodically monitored with X-rays to ensure the bone is mending properly.
Surgical Care for an Elbow Fracture
If an elbow fracture involves a fully displaced bone, surgery may be necessary to restore proper bone alignment. One minimally invasive option is a closed reduction and percutaneous pinning. After manipulating the bone back into place, the surgeon inserts metal pins through the skin to secure the bone as it heals. The arm will be stabilized in a splint until the swelling subsides and a cast can be applied. The surgeon will monitor the bone as it heals and remove the cast and pins when appropriate.
Another surgical treatment option for a displaced elbow fracture is an open reduction with internal fixation. Often used to address an open fracture, nerve damage, or a vascular injury, this procedure involves surgically repositioning a broken bone, then stabilizing it with permanent hardware, such as special screws, plates, or wires.
If you would like to explore your surgical treatment options for an elbow fracture, you are welcome to consult with Christopher C. Schmidt, MD, a board-certified orthopaedic surgeon who practices in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Request an appointment today.