Arm Fractures and Critical Information that you Need to Know when you or your Child is Injured
Fractures and broken bones in children and adults result from a variety of different accidents. An arm fracture is a common type of fracture in both children and adults. Arm fractures most commonly occur from a slip and fall and car accidents. Besides a fall, blunt trauma such as a blow to the arm can also cause a fracture. For you or your child, an arm fracture can result in severe and chronic nerve pain and will require immediate medical treatment. If you or your child has suffered an arm fracture as a result of an accident or another person's negligence, the attorneys at The Law Offices of Frank J. Dito, Jr. can help you.
The arm extends from the shoulder to the wrist and consists of both the forearm and the upper arm. The forearm contains two bones, the radius and the ulna, and connects the wrist to the elbow. Both bones are important for proper motion of the elbow and wrist joints, and are important attachments to the muscles of the upper arm and shoulder. The upper arm contains a single bone, the humerus, and connects the shoulder to the elbow.
What is a forearm fracture?
A forearm fracture is a fracture of one or both of the bones of the forearm, either the radius and/or ulna.
How do forearm fractures happen?
The most common causes of forearm fractures occur due to a fall onto the hand, the forearm being struck by an object, car accidents and, unfortunately, child abuse. Sports frequently cause forearm fractures, particularly in-line skating, skateboarding, scooter riding, mountain biking, and contact sports, such as football and wrestling.
What are the symptoms of a forearm fracture?
Symptoms of a forearm fracture include pain, swelling, and deformity of the forearm. Diagnosis of a forearm fracture can be made with a proper physical examination and x-ray studies. If you suspect a forearm fracture, you should be seen by an orthopedist, who will obtain x-rays and other diagnostic testing to determine if there is a forearm fracture present, and if there are any other associated injuries.
Types of forearm fractures
Fractures of the forearm bones that occur around the elbow are known as radial head fractures and olecranon, or elbow, fractures. Fractures that occur by the wrist are generally known as a radius or radial fracture.
- Radial Shaft Fractures
A fracture of the radial shaft is an unusual injury as fractures of the radial shaft are associated with a fracture to the ulna. When a radial shaft fracture occurs, it commonly requires surgery unless the fracture is non-displaced. If the fracture is out of position, then forearm rotation could be limited unless the fracture is realigned. For this reason, most radial shaft fractures are treated with surgery to realign and hold the bones in proper position.
- Fracture of Both Bones of the Forearm
A fracture to both the radius and ulna is an injury that will generally require surgery in an adult patient. The forearm is unstable without internal fixation surgery as there is no ability to cast this type of injury to ensure proper alignment of the fractures. Surgery commonly involves placing a metal plate and screws on both the radius and ulna bones. Since each of these bones must be approached through a separate incision, the patient will have two incisions on their forearm. A rod may be used alongside a plate and screws to maintain the position of the bone, but this may interfere with the forearms rotational stability.
- Fracture of the ulna
The ulna is the smaller of the two bones of the forearm. The two bones, the radius and the ulna, both span the distance from the elbow to the wrist joint.
Ulna fractures can most often be treated with a cast or fracture brace. If there is a significant amount of displacement of the ulna fracture, the fracture is considered 'unstable.' In these cases, an orthopedic surgeon may recommend surgical stabilization of the fracture. The usual treatment is to use a plate and screws to secure the fractured bone together.
Are there any complications from surgery to repair the Fracture?
Despite the frequent need for surgery, there are some common complications. The metal plate and screws can be become tender and painful over time and may require their eventual removal. The removal of the plate and screws may leave your arm open to an increased risk of a second fracture. Also, in very rare occurrences, the fracture may not heal, which is known as a non-union. The non-union may require bone graft surgery to help the fracture heal.
Some healed fractures may result in decreased range of motion, especially if the fracture occurs in the elbow and wrist joints. The reduced range of motion usually occurs to rotational movements, such as when opening a door knob or a jar. The range of motion may be increased with physical therapy but is permanent to some extent.
What is a Fracture of the Humerus?
A humerus fracture is an injury to the bone of the upper arm. The upper arm bone, the humerus, connects the shoulder to the elbow.
How do Humerus Fractures occur?
Humerus fractures can occur by many different causes, but are most commonly caused by falls and car accidents.
Humerus fractures are generally divided into three categories:
- Proximal Humerus Fractures
A proximal humerus fracture occurs near the shoulder joint, which is a “ball and socket” joint. The “ball” of the joint is the top of the humerus bone. Fractures of this ball in the shoulder joint are considered proximal humerus fractures. These fractures may involve the attachment of the rotator cuff tendons. Because these tendons are important to shoulder motion, treatment may depend on the position of the fracture to the tendon attachments.
- Mid-Shaft Humerus Fractures
Mid-shaft humerus fractures occur in the middle of the bone away from the shoulder and elbow joints. Most humeral shaft fractures will heal without surgery, but there are some situations that require surgical intervention. These injuries are commonly associated with an injury to the radial nerve. The radial nerve is one of the major nerves of the upper extremity and travels from the spinal cord, wraps around the humerus bone, and travels all the way down to the hand. Injury to this nerve may cause abnormal sensations in the hand and wrist as well as overall weakness of some of the muscles in the arm.
- Distal Humerus Fractures
Distal humerus fractures occur near the elbow joint. These fractures most often require surgical treatment unless the fracture can be stabilized. This type of fracture is common in children but not in adults.
What is the treatment for a humerus fracture?
Most humerus fractures will not require surgery and you will be treated with a sling or brace, allowing the fracture to heal. The position of the humerus does not normally allow for the fracture to be casted. Surgery may be required when the bone fragments are displaced. Your orthopedic surgeon’s decision to operate will depend on numerous factors, including the proximity of the fracture to the elbow and shoulder joints. If the fracture extends through the joint, surgery is highly likely.
If you or your child has suffered an arm fracture, make sure that they receive appropriate medical care with an orthopedist; maintain a record of your or your child's medical treatment; avoid speaking with any insurance adjusters before you speak to a personal injury attorney; and if you or your child has suffered a bone injury or arm fracture, you need the advice of an experienced Staten Island, New York personal injury attorney. Call Frank J. Dito, Jr. today at (800) 310-5520 for your free consultation.