Distal humerus fracture

What is a distal humerus fracture?

A distal humerus fracture, which is fairly unusual, affects the bone where it joins the elbow. The humerus is the prominent bone that can be felt on the inside and outside of the elbow just above the ‘funny bone’ (ulnar nerve).

Causes

This type of fracture is usually caused either by a direct blow (for example, during a fall directly onto the elbow or being hit by a bat), or by landing on the arm when it is straight with the elbow locked, causing the ulna (forearm bone) to put too much stress on the humerus.

Symptom

Pain, swelling, bruising, stiffness and a feeling of elbow instability. In rare cases, there may be an open fracture, where bone is visible through the skin.

Diagnosis

Following a medical examination, the diagnosis may be backed up by an X-ray which will show the extent of the damage.

Treatment

You will be offered immediate surgery if the elbow is dislocated or where nerves or blood vessels are involved
Non-displaced fracture: this means that there is a crack in the bone, which can be seen on an X-ray, although the bones remain in their usual position. This type of fracture can be treated without surgery, usually by having your arm in a splint for a few days, followed by a functional brace

Unstable fracture: sometimes a non-displaced fracture may be at risk of becoming displaced after an injury. If bones become displaced, you may need to have surgery to make sure the bone heals in the correct alignment

Displaced or open fracture: where the bone fragments are out of place (displaced), or if the fracture has pierced the skin (open fracture), surgery may be needed to realign the bones so that the bone is stabilised. The type of surgery depends on the fracture; pins, plates and wires may be needed to hold the bone fragments in place

Frequently asked questions

At the Fortius Marylebone Clinic there are a number of steps to the front entrance. Please inform us in advance if you will require assistance with the steps, or any other special requirements when booking your appointment and one of our team will assist you with all arrangements during your visit. There is drop off access outside the clinic but parking on Fitzhardinge Street is for resident permit holders only.

The Fortius City Clinic has step-free and lift access to the clinic. There is no parking. 

We are able to organize interpreter services, but you should let us know in advance in order that this can be arranged. We can also arrange accommodation and make travel arrangements as necessary. Please call us to discuss your requirements, +44(0) 203 195 2442. 

If your consultant has referred you for a scan, we can usually perform this on the same day. The imaging department at our outpatient clinics is open from 8.00am to 8.00pm Monday to Friday and 8.00am to 1.00pm on Saturdays at our Marylebone Clinic. We also offer a comprehensive out of hours service for any urgent referrals.