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Elbow fracture

What causes this injury, and how can it be treated by our range of experts?

A fracture is a break in a bone. An elbow fracture is a common injury, and it can be effectively treated by experts at our hospitals.

There are several different types of fracture that can occur on your elbow. A break can occur on the top of the outside or inside of the elbow. Breaks can vary in severity, ranging from serious to very small, and they may be straight or more complex. The kind of break you have depends on these elements.

There are countless ways to break your elbow, from playing sports to having an accident or a fall. If you do break your elbow, it is usually down to one of these factors:

  • Something hard hits your elbow with enough impact to cause the bone to break;
  • You have hit or banged your elbow against something or
  • You fell with your straight, and the impact of falling was strong enough to cause a breakage.

If you have injured your elbow and suspect it might be fractured, you may notice:

  • Severe pain in your elbow and possibly the rest of your arm;
  • Swelling around your elbow;
  • A snapping feeling during a blow to the elbow;
  • Your arm or elbow looking strange or out of place;
  • Difficulty straightening or using your arm and
  • A loss of feeling in the elbow, arm or hand.

When you meet with your doctor, they will discuss your elbow injury in depth. This will help them reach an accurate diagnosis. They might ask:

  • How was your elbow injured?
  • Have you had a previous injury to your elbow?
  • Do you have any other symptoms, even if they’re seemingly unrelated to your elbow?

They will carry out a physical examination of your elbow and an assessment of your medical history.

You will need an X-Ray of your elbow to diagnose an elbow fracture. X-ray is an imaging technique that is used to show up abnormalities in bones and certain body tissue. X-rays usually use low amounts of radiation, so the risk to your health is very small. An X-ray should take 15-30 minutes and is carried out by a radiographer. A Consultant radiologist will provide the results.

Very occasionally, other imaging techniques are used, such as an ultrasound or a CT scan. Your doctor will explain these tests to you if they are needed.

Your doctor will examine your fracture and decide on the best treatment for your individual situation. This could involve surgery, if necessary.

Arm slings

If you have an elbow fracture you will probably need to wear a sling, a cast or a splint. This helps to protect your elbow and hold the bones in place, enabling it to heal quickly and effectively.

Elbow surgery

If your bones are out of place, unstable or there are bone fragments in your elbow, then it’s likely you will need surgery. Your surgeon will explain why you need surgery, and the process they will undertake to reset the bones or clear out the fragments. You will usually be asleep under a general anaesthetic for this procedure, and the length of operation will depend on exactly what procedure needs to be carried out.


Our physiotherapists can work with you to create a programme of exercises that will help your elbow to get back to normal after a fracture. Starting off gently, physical therapy will help to build strength and restore motion to your arm.

Usually the fracture itself will heal within 6 to twelve weeks. However, it will probably take longer for your elbow and arm to be fully back to normal. You might still experience pain, stiffness, swelling and reduced strength for some time after.

To ensure you recover as soon as possible, it is important that you work with your physiotherapist and build back strength and flexibility in your elbow. They will recommend specific exercises for you to do several times a day.

Breaking your elbow can be frustrating and painful, but it’s important to know that good help is available. You are not alone.

Receiving care from an experienced Consultant at one of our local hospitals can help you to recover as quickly as possible. They will assess and diagnose your fracture and then discuss the treatment recommended for your specific situation.

To schedule your visit, book a specialist appointment online today

Specialists offering Elbow fracture

Mr Sean Hughes

Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon

MBBs, MSc (Orth Eng), FRCS (Tr&Orth)

Mount Alvernia Hospital

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