Broken Arm

Causes of a Broken Arm

Most broken arms are caused by trauma to that extremity. This can be a low-energy mechanism like a fall or a high-energy injury like a motor vehicle crash. Sporting injuries are also common causes for a broken arm.
 
Common symptoms of a broken arm include:
  • Swelling at the site of the break
  • Bruising
  • Pain with movement 
  • Loss of normal use of the arm
     

Conditions Related to a Broken Arm

Here are some of the most common sites for a broken arm to occur:
 
Other conditions that can make a broken arm more likely include:
  • Osteoporosis
  • Bone tumors in the upper extremity

 

How is a Broken Arm Diagnosed?

Your doctor will perform a careful physical examination and make sure that all of the nerves and blood vessels in the arm are unharmed. In most cases, an x-ray will be done to diagnose a broken arm. For some breaks, more advanced imaging such as a CT scan or MRI may also be necessary.
 

When Should I See a Doctor for a Broken Arm?

A broken arm should always be evaluated by a health professional. You may need to be seen in the emergency room when the break first occurs to get the initial treatment. In most cases, you will be asked to follow-up with a surgeon to get definitive treatment. Hand surgeons are specially qualified to diagnose and treat fractures in the upper extremity.  The American Society for Surgery of the Hand can help you Find a Hand Surgeon in your area.
 

How is a Broken Arm Treated?

Depending on the bone involved and the pattern of the break, a broken arm may be treated with immobilization in a sling or cast or with surgery if the break is unstable or displaced. Your physician will make that determination when he/she evaluates you in the office. It may take several weeks or months for the broken arm to heal. You may also need rehabilitation to restore motion and strength.
 
© 2010 American Society for Surgery of the Hand.  Developed by the ASSH Website Committee.
 
 

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