About Broken/Fractured Humerus Injuries

By Anatomography (en:Anatomography (setting page of this image)) [CC BY-SA 2.1 jp (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.1/jp/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons
Animated medical illustration of the humerus bone (in red highlight). By Anatomography [CC BY-SA 2.1 jp]

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The humerus bone is located in the upper arm and it is the largest bone in the arm. The shoulder joint connects to the top of the humerus while the elbow joint connects to the bottom of the humerus. The bottom of the humerus connects to two other bones at the elbow to create the forearm. The radius bone meets with the humerus bone at the elbow joint and runs down the outside of the arm where the thumb is located. The ulna bone also meets with the humerus bone at the elbow joint but it runs down the inside of the arm down to the pinky finger.

There are several types of fractures. Each fracture produces different symptoms and requires different treatment. Each fracture is unique:

  • A closed or simple fracture is a break that doesn’t pierce or disrupt the skin. These are the most common fractures and are fairly easy to treat.
  • Compression fractures usually occur in the thoracic or lumbar spine. People with osteoporosis are very susceptible to this type of fracture.
  • A comminuted fracture is like a shattered bone. This fracture occurs when the bone shatters or splits into several pieces.
  • A break occurring in the radius bone near the wrist is known as a colle’s fracture and it is the most common arm fracture
  • An open or compound fracture is a break pierces through the skin. This fracture may break through the skin at first and then retreat back underneath the surface of the skin. A bone that has broken through the skin is exposed to harmful contaminants that exist outside the body. This creates a high risk of deep bone infection which could require surgery, the administration of antibiotics and removal of dead tissue.

Diagnosis Of A Broken/Fractured Humerus

It is important to make sure a broken arm is properly diagnosed because the diagnosis often determines the course of treatment. Pain, swelling and limited range of motion are symptoms that can indicate a broken bone. However, diagnostic testing in the form of an X-Ray, MRI or CT-scan is required in order to determine the location and extent of the break. Most emergency room patients brought in from the scene of a car, truck or other roadway accident will almost always undergo a CT-scan.

Treatment Options

The doctor will determine the proper course of treatment once the injury has been properly diagnosed. The type of fracture and the location are most important factors when determining the type of treatment. Treatment can range anywhere from a sling or cast to a surgical procedure requiring the installation of metal rods and screws.

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