Humeral shaft fracture


A humeral shaft fracture is a break in the middle of the bone in the upper arm.


The shaft of the humerus can fracture following a direct blow (for example, during a fall directly onto the elbow or being hit by a bat), or by falling onto the arm when it is straight with the elbow locked.


Pain, limited movement, weakness, swelling, and in many cases a visible deformity.


Following a medical examination, the diagnosis may be backed up by an X-ray and, in some cases, a CT scan to 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, but the bone remains in its correct alignment. This type of fracture is usually treated without surgery by immobilising the arm in a splint with a sling for a few days, followed by physiotherapy

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

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