What Are Elbow Fractures?

The elbow joint is composed of the arm bone (humerus) and two forearm bones (the radius and ulna). The elbow is typically fractured at the olecranon, which is the tip of the ulna. Causes of elbow fractures may result from:

  • A fall on the elbow
  • A direct blow to the elbow
  • twisting injury to the arm
  • A fall on an outstretched arm with the elbow locked in extension

Symptoms may include any, all, or any combination of the following:

  • Sharp, intense pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Tenderness
  • Numbness in the elbow, forearm, hand, and/or fingers

Treatment depends on the severity and location of the fracture.

How Are Elbow Fractures Treated?

When the fractured bone maintains its alignment and integrity (a non-displaced fracture), nonsurgical treatment options can be used. Typically, the fractured elbow is put in an anatomical position and placed in a long arm splint or cast that extends from the hand to the upper arm.

Surgical treatment may be needed for displaced fractures that involve improper bone alignment and/or multiple pieces of fractured bone. An open reduction internal fixation procedure is used to reduce the fracture and then fixate it using a plate and screws.