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Broken Elbow

When to Seek Medical Care

An elbow fracture carries the risk of potentially serious and disabling complications. If you think your elbow may be fractured, you should seek medical attention at a hospital's emergency department immediately.

If you have only mild swelling, and no bruising, open wounds, or loss of feeling, you may consider calling a doctor prior to seeking emergency medical attention.

If your elbow shows any of the following problems after an injury to your arm, you should go to an emergency department.

  • You have swelling at or near the elbow.
  • You notice any deformity of the elbow or the areas near the elbow.
  • If you have any doubts, compare your injured elbow to your uninjured one. If you have a new lump or bump, go to the emergency department.
  • You hear or feel grinding, popping, or clicking as you move your elbow, wrist, or hand.
  • Your elbow "catches" at the joint.
  • Your normal elbow motion becomes limited.
  • You see any discoloration of the elbow or areas near the elbow. A bluish, purplish, or blackish color may mean you are bleeding into, or near, your elbow. A reddish color may signal infection.
  • You notice any numbness or tingling of any part of your arm, for instance, a "funny bone" feeling that doesn't go away
  • Your forearm, wrist, or fingers feels "dead" and difficult or impossible to move normally.
  • You have any significant pain in your elbow, forearm, wrist, or hand.
  • You notice any color or temperature change in your forearm, wrist, or hand.
  • Your wrist or hand is pale, cool, or bluish. You may have a blockage of blood flow in your injured elbow.
  • You are bleeding around the elbow area.
  • You should be able to easily perform the following motions without pain:
    • Fully straighten your elbow
    • Fully bend it so that your fingertips touch your shoulder
    • Turn your palm completely toward the ceiling and toward the floor

WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

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