The elbow joint is made up of three bones: the humerus (upper arm), the radius and the ulna (forearm). Fractures around the elbow can occur in a single bone or in a combination of these bones. Fractures usually occur after a fall onto the outstretched hand or directly onto the elbow itself. Occasionally, fractures are associated with ligament tears or dislocation of the elbow; thus a comprehensive strategy is required for these complicated injuries in order to treat not just the fractured bone, but also the associated ligament injuries.
Certain stable fractures may be treated with a sling or a brace followed by stretching exercises. However, many fractures around the elbow may require surgical treatment. Most often this includes holding the fractured ends of the bone together in the correct alignment with a plate and screws. This allows the bones to heal in their natural anatomic position, leading to an optimal result. The blue arrow in the x-ray below shows a fracture in the ulna. The picture to the right shows the fracture anatomically realigned and fixed with a plate and screws.
Below is a 3D image of a fractured radius of the elbow. The yellow arrow points to the fractured area of bone. Post-surgical x-rays show the bone has been anatomically realigned and held in place with a plate and screws.
Patients are encouraged to begin range of motion and stretching of the elbow as soon as a few days after surgery. This is done to avoid stiffness and loss of range of motion. Patients often participate in stretching exercises several times a day. Supervised physical therapy or specialized bracing may be used to assist recovery of elbow motion.
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