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Broken Elbow

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.

Next Steps

Follow-up

It is extremely important to follow your doctor's medical advice exactly if you have a broken elbow. Once injured, the elbow is not a "forgiving" joint as it heals. To get the best possible result after you've broken your elbow, pay attention to the advice your doctor gives you. Keep all follow-up appointments with your doctor.

Following are some of the common things you may be told after your first visit for your broken elbow:

  • Use medications to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Elevate your arm to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Leave your splint or cast in place. Take care of your cast or splint.
  • Take antibiotics to treat infection, if prescribed, or to reduce the chance of getting an infection.
  • Return to the emergency department immediately if you notice any of the following:
    • Your hand is cold.
    • Your hand is pale or blue.
    • Your hand is numb, tingling, or "dead" feeling.
    • Your forearm hurts if you move your wrist, hand, or fingers.

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