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Elbow Fracture

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Elbow Fracture

(Broken Elbow; Elbow, Broken)


An elbow fracture is a break in one or more of the bones that make up the elbow joint. The elbow joint is made of two forearm bones and one upper arm bone.

The Elbow Joint.

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An elbow fracture is caused by trauma from:

  • Falling directly on the elbow
  • A direct blow to the elbow
  • Falling on an outstretched arm
  • A motor vehicle accident

Risk Factors

The risk of an elbow fracture is higher in those who:

  • Have a health problem that may result in falls, such as weak muscles
  • Play some sports, such as football, hockey, wrestling, or gymnastics


Problems may be:

  • Pain that is worse with movement
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Problems moving the arm
  • Numbness in the fingers, hand, or arm
  • A change in the way the elbow looks


The doctor will ask about symptoms, past health, and how the injury happened.

Pictures of the elbow will be taken. This can be done with:


It can take 8 to 10 weeks to heal. The goal of treatment is to help the bones heal properly to prevent long term problems.


Most fractures are due to accidents. Healthy muscles may help to prevent more severe injuries.

Putting Bones Back in Place

Some fractures may cause pieces of bone to come apart. The pieces of bone will need to be put back into place so it will heal properly. The doctor may do this through either of the following:

  • Carefully moving the bones and using tension to align them. Anesthesia will be given help to manage pain.
  • Surgery to reconnect bone sections with pins, screws, plates, or a rod. These devices will also hold the bone in place as it heals.




  • Distal radius fracture—emergency management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/management/distal-radius-fracture-emergency-management.
  • Elbow fractures in children. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/elbow-fractures-in-children.
  • Elbow (olecranon) fractures. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/elbow-olecranon-fractures.


  • Warren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.