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Elbow Fracture In Adults, Ambulatory Care

An elbow fracture

is a break in one or more of the 3 bones that form your elbow joint. An elbow fracture is often caused by an injury. An example is a fall onto an outstretched hand with a bent elbow. Osteoporosis (brittle bones) can increase your risk for an elbow fracture.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Pain and tenderness
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Trouble moving your arm or not being able to move your arm at all
  • Weakness or numbness in your elbow, arm, or hand
  • Deformity (your arm is shaped differently than normal)

Seek immediate care for the following symptoms:

  • Numb elbow, arm, or fingers
  • Swollen, cold, or pale skin
  • Open skin areas on your elbow and arm that will not stop bleeding

Treatment for an elbow fracture may include any of the following:

  • A device such as a brace, cast, sling, or splint may be put on your elbow to limit your arm movement. The device will hold the broken bones in place while they heal, help decrease pain, and prevent more damage.
  • Ultrasound therapy directs sound waves into your elbow. The sound waves help the bones heal.
  • Surgery may be needed to hold bones in their normal position with pins, wires, or screws. Surgery may also be done if you have other injuries, such as nerve or blood vessel damage.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Elevate your elbow. Raise your elbow above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your elbow on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably. While your elbow is elevated, wiggle your fingers and open and close them to prevent hand stiffness.
  • Put ice on your elbow. Ice helps decrease swelling and pain. Ice may also help prevent tissue damage. Use an ice pack or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel and place it on your elbow for 15 to 20 minutes every hour as directed.
  • Take pain medicine as directed. You may be given prescription pain medicine. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you take your medicine. Your healthcare provider may also recommend NSAID pain medicine. These medicines are available without a doctor's order. Take as directed. NSAIDs may cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems if not taken correctly.
  • Go to physical therapy as directed. A physical therapist can teach you exercises to help improve movement and strength and to decrease pain.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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