Elbow Fracture Related Anatomy

elbow fractures

Illustration 1- The elbow joint

The elbow is a hinge joint made up of the distal humerus, proximal radius (not shown in Illustration 1), and olecranon of the ulna. Because the elbow has the important jobs of bending and straightening the arm and rotating the forearm, an elbow injury can limit a patient’s ability to perform everyday movements. One of the most common types of elbow injuries is an olecranon fracture. Proper diagnosis and treatment of olecranon fractures are important, as loss of motion and post traumatic arthritis are commonly seen when fractures are not attended to.


Diagnosis of an Elbow Fracture

Illustration 2- An olecranon fracture as shown on x-ray

An orthopedic specialist is the most qualified medical professional to diagnose olecranon fractures. He or she uses the following when making their accurate diagnosis:


  1. A medical history. Questions are asking to gain details regarding how the injury occurred and if the patient has had any similar previous injuries.
  2. A physical examination. A series of physical tests are performed to access elbow function and symptoms related to the injury.
  3. Medical imaging studies. X-rays from multiple views confirm the presence of a fracture and help determine its severity.


Once an official diagnosis is made, the fracture is treated appropriately.


Nonsurgical Treatment of an Elbow Fracture

If an olecranon fracture is not displaced and especially in younger patients, non-surgical treatment may be used to heal the fracture. The patient is placed in a plaster splint that protects and immobilizes the joint so the fracture can heal. Typically, the splint is worn for four to six weeks.


Surgical Treatment of an Elbow Fracture

An open reduction internal fixation (ORIF) procedure is used to surgically treat olecranon fractures. During the procedure, an orthopedic surgeon realigns the fractured bone and fixates it using pins, plates, and screws. The procedure is typically done on an outpatient basis. Following the procedure, the elbow is immobilized for a period of one to two weeks.  Motion exercises are started early to prevent prolonged stiffness.   Lifting and physical activity are usually not allowed until after six weeks. When X-rays show that the fracture has fully healed, patients are able to return to normal activities.


Seeking Treatment for an Elbow Fracture

If you have sustained an elbow injury and are in pain, please contact one of our 5 Long Island or Brooklyn offices to arrange an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists. Your injury will be properly diagnosed and treated and you can expect a full recovery when you choose our clinic.

The physicians at Total Orthopedics and Sports Medicine focus on both the surgical and non-surgical treatment of all bone and joint injuries and are one of the most innovative orthopedic practices in the area.  

Fortunately, many patients can be treated non-surgically with a combination of conservative modalities coordinated by the Total Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Team. If surgery is necessary, the practice uses a multidisciplinary approach to create a treatment plan that focuses on the patient’s lifestyle and activities and helps them get back to those activities quickly and effectively.  Expect a full recovery when in the hands of our trusted physicians.