Broken Arm Overview
A broken or fractured arm means that one or more of the bones of the arm have been cracked. This is a common injury occurring in both children and adults. In adults, fractures of the arm account for nearly half of all broken bones. In children, fractures of the forearm are second only to broken collarbones.
- Basic anatomy: The arm consists of 3 major bones. The humerus runs from the shoulder to the elbow. This is called the upper arm, or, simply, the arm. At the elbow, the humerus connects with 2 bones: the radius and the ulna. These bones go from the elbow to the wrist and are regarded as the forearm.
- Important terms related to a broken arm
- Alignment: The relationship of how the broken portions of the bone come together. This is an indication of how badly a bone is broken.
- Angulation: The angle formed by the broken pieces of bone. Another measure of the seriousness of the break.
- Closed fracture: A broken bone without an open skin wound
- Comminuted fracture: A bone that is broken in multiple pieces
- Dislocation: A bone that has come out of a joint
- Displaced fracture: A broken bone with the parts of the bone not aligned
- Fracture: A crack in the bone. This is another word for a broken bone.
- Fracture-dislocation: A broken bone that has also come out of a joint
- Greenstick fracture: An incomplete fracture seen in children where only one side of the bone is broken
- Malunion: Healing of the bone in an unsatisfactory position
- Nonunion: Failure of the pieces of bone to heal back together
- Occult fracture: A broken bone that does not appear initially on the x-rays
- Open fracture (compound fracture): A fracture that has a laceration in the skin overlying the break or a fracture that has a piece of bone sticking through the skin
- Pathologic fracture: A broken bone that is due to a weakness of the bone itself from some other disease
Broken Arm Causes
Almost all injuries to the arm that result in a broken bone are caused in 2 ways: falls and direct trauma.
- The typical fall that produces a fracture occurs when you fall on your outstretched hand. The location of the fracture can be from the wrist up to the shoulder depending on the direction of the fall, the age of the person, and other factors that modify the stresses applied to the bone.
- Direct trauma can be from a direct blow from an object such as a bat, the trauma during a car accident, or any accident that causes the direct application of force to a part of the arm.
Broken Arm Symptoms
Most broken arms have these symptoms:
- A large amount of pain and increased pain when moving the arm
- Maybe an obvious deformity compared to the other arm
- Possible open wound either from the bone puncturing the skin or from the skin being cut during the injury
- Decreased sensation or inability to move the limb, which may indicate nerve damage