The Elbow is the joint connecting the upper arm (Humerus) to the forearm (Radius & Ulna). The Elbow is an important joint, providing range of motion and mobility to the arm.
Bones of the Elbow
The bones of the Elbow are all susceptible to Fracture from trauma.
- Humerus – connects the Shoulder and the Elbow
- Radius – one the two bones in the forearm connecting the Elbow to the Wrist
- Ulna – one the two bones in the forearm connecting the Elbow to the Wrist
Types of Fractures of the Elbow
All Elbow Fractures are either Complete Elbow Fractures or Incomplete Elbow Fractures . A Complete ElbowFracture means that the bone is cracked all of the way through the bone. An Incomplete Elbow Fracture means the crack of the bone does not go all of the way through the bone.
All Elbow Fractures are also either Simple Elbow Fractures or Compound Elbow Fractures. A Simple Elbow Fracture means the Fractured Bone does not pierce the skin and protrude. A Compound Elbow Fracture means the cracked bone has pierced the skin and protrudes out of the skin.
Elbow Fractures can also be described as follows:
- Olecranon Fracture – a fracture of the top of the proximal tip of the ulna bone where it enters the elbow
- Coronoid Process Fracture – a fracture of the bottom of the proximal tip of the ulna bone where it enters the elbow
- Comminuted Elbow Fracture – an Elbow fracture where the bone has broken into a number of pieces
Treatment for a Broken Elbow
Uncomplicated Elbow Fractures can be treated by Reduction (putting the bone back in place), Casting (putting a cast over the broken bone or entire arm) and Immobilization (using a sling or other device to prevent movement) of the Elbow, surgery is often necessary to repair more serious Elbow Fractures. Oftentimes, metal plates and screws are utilized during surgery to increase stabilization to the Broken Elbow. An Open Reduction with Internal Fixation means the site of the injury is opened by a surgeon, who then puts the bone back in place, removes any identifiable bone fragments and then installs a metal plate and screws to repair the Fracture, as depicted to the right.
Prognosis for a Broken Elbow
The severity and type of the Elbow Fracture will determine the ultimate prognosis. Elbow Fractures commonly result in some type of permanent impairment, oftentimes with accompanying pain, limitation in range of motion and functional loss.
Elbow Dislocation Injury
Elbow Dislocation Injuries are the most common type of Elbow Injury. The most common cause of elbow dislocations is falling onto an outstretched arm. Elbow dislocations are second only to shoulder dislocations as the most common injury to the upper extremity.
Types of Elbow Dislocations:
- Simple Elbow Dislocation – displacement of the ulna in relation to the humerus (90 percent of Elbow Dislocations)
- Complex Elbow Dislocation – displacement of the ulna or radius with fracture to one of the bones within the elbow joint
Treatment of Elbow Dislocations
Simple Elbow Dislocation
The proper course of treatment following Simple Elbow Dislocation is typically Reduction, which is the process of forcing the bones into proper alignment. Reduction can be extremely painful and requires a significant amount of force. Once the elbow is back in proper alignment, X-rays are taken to determine the extent of any associated Elbow Fractures. The Elbow is then splinted at 90 degrees and the injury victim is required to return in a few days for follow-up X-rays. Simple Elbow Dislocations may or may not result in permanent elbow joint instability, loss of range of motion, weakness and ongoing pain. Interestingly, while X-rays reveal fractures in 12% to 60% of Elbow Dislocations, surgical exploration osteochondral injuries in 100% of Elbow Dislocations.
Complex Elbow Dislocation
The proper course of treatment for Complex Elbow Dislocation is Reduction, X-ray and Splinting. Patients are then referred to orthopedic surgeons, as most Complex Elbow Dislocations will require future surgery to repair tendon and ligament damage and remove any bone fragments. The following are common injuries following Complex Elbow Dislocation:
- Medical Collateral Ligament Damage
- Lateral Condyle Ligament Damage
- Epicondyle Ligament Damage
- Transolecranon Fracture
- Posterior Monteggia Fracture
The Terrible Triad refers to the very painful Complex Elbow Dislocation involving dislocation with Radial Head Fracture and Coronoid Process Fracture.
Elbow Muscle, Elbow Tendon and Elbow Ligament Injuries
The Elbow contains a complex network of ligaments, tendons, joints, muscles, arteries, veins, nerves and blood vessels.
The main Elbow Ligaments are as follows:
- Annular Ligament
- Radial Collateral Ligament
- Ulnar Collateral Ligament
The following injuries are all common injuries to the Elbow:
- Sprain – a stretch or tear to the Elbow ligaments (fibers connecting one bone to another bone)
- Strain – a stretch or tear to the Elbow tendons (fibers connecting the muscles to the bones)
- Rupture – a complete tear of an Elbow ligament or Elbow tendon
Elbow Sprains and Elbow Strains are classified in order of severity as follows:
- Grade I Elbow Sprain or Elbow Strain
- Grade II Elbow Sprain or Elbow Strain
- Grade III Elbow Sprain or Elbow Strain
It is important to keep in mind that Sprains and Strains are stretches or tears of the Elbow Ligaments, Elbow Tendons or Elbow Muscles. While many Elbow Sprains and Elbow Strains do heal with time, they may not heal completely. While the damage may be microscopic and may not visible on current imaging techniques such as MRI, this does not mean that Elbow Sprains and Elbow Strains do not result in serious and severe pain and permanent impairment.
Treatment of Elbow Tendon, Elbow Ligament and Elbow Muscle Injuries
The treatment of Elbow Injuries is largely dependent on the specific injury sustained. The different types of treatment can include the following:
- Physical Therapy
- Massage Therapy
- Corticosteriod Injections
- Pain Medication and Muscle Relaxants
Contact an Experienced Wisconsin Elbow Injury Attorney
Each year innocent victims suffer Wisconsin Elbow Injuries as a result of the carelessness of another. It is critical that Elbow Injury victims have an attorney that understands Elbow Injuries and the potential ongoing problems that can result from Elbow Fractures and Elbow Tendon and Elbow Ligament Injuries.
If you or a loved one has sustained an Elbow Injury due to the negligence of another, be sure to contact an experienced Wisconsin Elbow Injury Attorney.