elbow is the joint between the upper arm bone
(humerus) and the forearm bones (radius and ulna). A fractured elbow means that
one of these bones has broken near the elbow joint. A fractured elbow can occur
from falling on an outstretched arm, directly hitting the elbow, or forcefully
using the elbow like a lever to move or lift something. Fractures may be closed
(the broken bone does not break through the skin) or open (the skin is broken
over the fracture site and the bone may poke through the skin, or bone may be
visible in the wound). Sprains, strains, or dislocations may occur at the same
time as a fracture.
Symptoms of a fractured elbow may include:
A snap or pop felt or heard at the time of the
Pain that is likely to increase with arm movement or
pressure applied to the area.
A grating sound or feeling with
movement of or pressure on the injured arm.
An elbow that looks
misshapen or out of its normal position (deformed).
feeling, such as numbness or tingling, in the elbow, forearm, or
Cool, pale, or blue skin on the elbow, forearm, or
A decreased pulse or no pulse at the
Swelling and bruising that appears within 30 minutes of the
A feeling of looseness or instability at the
Decreased ability or inability to move the arm (not because
A bone poking through the skin or visible in a
Recovery time for a fracture can vary depending on a person's age and
health and the type and severity of the fracture. A minor break in children may
heal completely in a few weeks, while a serious fracture in an older person may
require months to heal.
Initial medical treatment may include:
Immobilizing the injured arm with a cast, splint,
medicines to reduce pain and swelling.
Later, physical therapy may be done to help the person strengthen the
muscles around the elbow and regain arm motion.
Many elbow fractures may need surgery so that the elbow heals without
any loss of function.
If a fracture is untreated, the result can be long-term pain,
decreased arm movement and strength, and a misshapen joint.
Primary Medical Reviewer
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.