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Broken Elbow

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Surgery

Sometimes an operation to repair your broken elbow is the best choice. This is particularly true if you have an open, or compound, elbow injury.

    • An open elbow injury means that 1 or more of the bones at the elbow has come through the skin.
    • Not only does the bone need to be put in place, but it also needs to be thoroughly cleaned so infection does not occur. This is best done in an operating room.

Elbow injuries that damage nerves and blood vessels often need to be fixed in the operating room. Medical researchers have found that certain types of broken elbows heal better if they are repaired in the operating room. Your doctor will discuss the treatment options with you and help you make the best choice.

Other Therapy

  • If your elbow joint is filled with blood or other fluid, the joint can be drained in the emergency department.
    • Blood or other fluid drained from the elbow may suggest a particular diagnosis to the doctor.
    • Draining this fluid may relieve pressure and pain in the elbow.
  • Splints, slings, and casts will be applied.
    • Doctors use splints after many different types of elbow injuries. Doctors usually make splints of plaster. They typically place splints on the back of your arm and do not completely encircle it with the splint material. Splints are designed to hold your elbow in one particular position.
    • Splints for broken elbows usually run from near your shoulder all the way to your hand. They prevent the elbow from bending or the hand from turning. Such motions may disturb a healing fracture or dislocation of the elbow.
    • The doctor may provide a sling so your heavy splinted arm can rest comfortably. Your doctor may ask you to remove the sling at home and elevate your arm above your head. Elevating the arm relieves swelling. This is very important especially during the first few days after an elbow injury when swelling may press on nerve and blood vessels in your elbow or forearm.
    • Doctors rarely apply casts to freshly injured elbows. A cast, unlike a splint, completely encircles the arm. If swelling occurs underneath a cast, the swelling may cause damage to nerves and blood vessels.
  • Resetting broken elbows: If a bone in your elbow is broken or the elbow is out of joint, your doctor may need to reset the bones. This is done for a variety of reasons.
    • Putting the bones back in their proper positions may greatly relieve pain.
    • Resetting bones also allows proper healing to begin.
    • Sometimes broken bones press on, or cut, nerves or blood vessels. Moving the bones to their normal positions may stop this damage.
    • If the bones of your elbow need to be reset, medications are available to relieve the pain and anxiety you may feel.
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