Humerus (arm) fracture

Arms | Orthopaedics | Humerus (arm) fracture (Disease)


The three bones that come together to form the elbow can break (fracture) in different ways. A distal humerus fracture is one type of elbow fracture. The distal humerus is the end of the upper arm bone (the humerus) that forms the upper part of the elbow.

These types of elbow fractures are fairly uncommon. They account for about 2% of fractures in adults. The elbow is a complicated joint and elbow fractures can involve both of the forearm bones, as well as the humerus.

Most broken arms have these symptoms:

•A large amount of pain and increased pain when moving the arm


•Maybe an obvious deformity compared to the other arm

•Possible open wound either from the bone puncturing the skin or from the skin being cut during the injury

•Decreased sensation or inability to move the limb, which may indicate nerve damage

Causes and Risk factors

Distal humerus fractures may occur in a number of ways:

• A direct blow. This can happen during a fall (landing directly on the elbow) or by being struck by a hard object (baseball bat, car dashboard or door during a crash).

• An indirect fracture. This can happen during a fall if a person lands on his or her outstretched arm with the elbow locked straight. The ulna (one of the forearm bones) is driven into the distal humerus, causing it to break.

Almost all injuries to the arm that result in a broken bone are caused in 2 ways: falls and direct trauma.

•The typical fall that produces a fracture occurs when you fall on your outstretched hand. The location of the fracture can be from the wrist up to the shoulder depending on the direction of the fall, the age of the person, and other factors that modify the stresses applied to the bone.

•Direct trauma can be from a direct blow from an object such as a bat, the trauma during a car accident, or any accident that causes the direct application of force to a part of the arm.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Most humerus fractures will heal without surgery. The majority of patients can be treated with a sling or brace, and with time the fracture will heal. Casting is not possible with most types of humerus fractures.

Surgery may be required when the bone fragments are far out of position. Determining when the alignment is acceptable depends on a number of factors. Fractures close to the shoulder and elbow joints, especially fractures that extend into the joint, are more likely to require surgery. Conversely, fractures in the center of the shaft of the bone rarely require surgery, even with the bone fragments appear not perfectly aligned. ...