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