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Distal Humerus/Radial
Head/Coronoid Fracture
(Elbow Fractures)


Fractures of the elbow are common at the end of the upper arm that makes up the top portion of the elbow joint. This area is called the distal humerus.

Symptoms

Injury to this area results commonly from a direct or indirect impact with symptoms of a fracture including swelling, bruising, pain or tenderness, inability to move the elbow, and instability.

Evaluation & Treatment

Initial evaluation includes a medical history, physical examination, x-rays and specialized testing. Testing should include evaluation of pulse, nerve function, swelling and skin integrity. Care should be taken to ensure that there are no fragments that puncture the skin as this can lead to increased risk of infection. In case of complex fractures a CT scan is needed.

Initial treatment after evaluation includes the placement of a splint to the elbow, a sling to keep the elbow in position, ice and pain medication. Often distal humerus fractures require surgical fixation if there is displacement of the fragments. Surgical fixation is done with realignment of the bones and a placement of plates and screws to hold the alignment. This may be done either as an outpatient or as an overnight stay surgery. Typically physical therapy is started a few days to weeks after the injury depending on the extent of injury. Restrictions from lifting objects typically last 6 to 12 weeks.