Elbow fractures may result from a fall, a direct impact to the elbow, or a twisting injury to the arm. Sprains, strains or dislocations may occur at the same time as a fracture. X-rays are used to confirm if a fracture is present and if the bones are out of place. Sometimes a CT (Computed Tomography) scan might be needed to get further detail.
Fractures that are out of place or unstable are more likely to require surgery. A surgical procedure would replace and stabilize the fragments or remove bone fragments. Whenever a fracture is open (skin broken over the fracture), urgent surgery is needed to clean out the wound and bone to minimize the risk of infection.
Non-surgical treatment such as using a sling, cast or splint is typically used when the bones are at low risk of moving out of place or when the position of the bones is okay as is. Age is also an important factor when treating elbow fractures. Casts are used more frequently in children, as their risk of developing elbow stiffness is small; however, in an adult, elbow stiffness is much more likely. Rehabilitation directed by your doctor is often used to maximize motion and decrease the chance of getting elbow stiffness. This might include exercises, scar massage, ultrasound, heat, ice and splints that stretch the joint.