A humerus fracture is a break in the lower end of the upper arm bone, one of the three bones that come together to form the elbow joint. A fracture in this area is very painful and can make elbow motion difficult or impossible.
If your child needs surgery or casting, our Fracture Care Clinic opens every day and you do not need an appointment. Surgery rooms get scheduled every morning, so your child receives the care and attention they need right away.
The humerus is the long bone of the upper arm. It extends from the shoulder to the elbow and connects to the ulna and radius bones of the forearm. A humerus fracture refers to a break in this bone. In addition, pain from a humerus fracture often radiates to the shoulder or elbow, depending on the location of the fracture, and may take weeks to heal.
What are the Various Types?
Depending on where the break occurs, the humerus can fracture into one of three different categories:
A break in the upper portion of the humerus close to the shoulder is known as a proximal humerus fracture.
A break in the center of the humerus is known as a mid-shaft humerus fracture.
Distal humerus fractures can happen near the elbow. This kind occasionally involves loose bone fragments and is typically a component of a more serious elbow injury.
What Causes a Humerus Fracture?
A humerus fracture can occur from any serious blow to the arm, although some are more prone to do so than others. For example, falling with an outstretched arm often fractures the shaft and proximal humerus. A distal humerus fracture is more likely to occur during a high-impact incident, such as a vehicle accident or football tackle. Pathologic fractures of the humerus can also occur as a result of a disorder that weakens the bones. This makes the bones more susceptible to breaking during routine tasks that normally provide no risk of injury. The following things can result in pathologic humerus fractures:
- Bone cancer
- Bone cysts
- Bone infection
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
What are the common causes and signs of a humerus fracture in children?
- Common Causes: Humerus fractures in children can occur due to falls, direct trauma, or sports-related injuries. The humerus bone can break into different parts, including the upper arm (proximal humerus), the shaft (mid-humerus), or the lower end near the elbow (distal humerus).
- Signs and Symptoms: Children with a humerus fracture may experience pain, swelling, bruising, and limited range of motion in the affected arm. An examination can reveal a visible deformity or misalignment of the arm, depending on the location and severity of the fracture.
How are humerus fractures in children diagnosed and treated?
- Diagnosis: Diagnosis typically involves a physical examination, medical history, and X-rays to confirm the presence, location, and extent of the fracture. Doctors will sometimes order additional imaging studies like CT scans or MRI to obtain a more detailed assessment.
- Treatment: The treatment approach depends on the type and severity of the fracture. Common treatment options include immobilization with a cast or splint. Some fractures may require surgical intervention, such as the insertion of pins, plates, or screws to stabilize the bone. The doctor may also recommend pain management and physical therapy as part of the treatment plan to promote healing and regain function.
What is the expected recovery time for a child with a humerus fracture?
- Recovery Time: The recovery time for a child with a humerus fracture varies depending on factors such as the age of the child, the type of fracture, and the chosen treatment method. Generally, fractures in children tend to heal relatively quickly due to their growing bones and good healing potential. Simple fractures with minimal displacement may take a few weeks to heal, while more complex fractures or those requiring surgery may take several months. Regular follow-up appointments with a healthcare provider are essential to monitor progress and ensure proper healing.
It’s important for parents and caregivers to closely follow the guidance of the treating healthcare provider, including recommendations for rehabilitation exercises and follow-up appointments. Proper care and early intervention can help children recover from a humerus fracture and minimize potential complications.
When children break bones, parents need to take them to the very best doctors. At the Medical City Children’s Orthopedics and Spine Specialists, we are the best. We specialize in children and their bones.
Symptoms of Humerus Fractures
The following are the most typical signs and symptoms of a mid-shaft humerus fracture:
Upper Arm Pain
When a humerus fractures, there is typically intense, continuous pain involved.
Restricted Arm Movement
People with a mid-shaft humerus fracture frequently refuse to move their arms since doing so causes them excruciating agony. Frequently, the entire arm, including the wrist and hand, is weak.
Swelling and Bruising
The upper arm will have considerable bruising and swelling, which may go all the way down to the hand. Normally, the swelling develops rather quickly as a result of blood and soft tissue injury in the vicinity.
Your child can experience a grating or grinding feeling when he or she moves their arm if the shattered bone fragments brush against one another.
An evident deformity of the upper arm may result from a displaced humerus fracture, for example, if the bone at the fracture site has overlapped, the arm may look shorter than usual.
The child will bleed if it is an open fracture, meaning that the bone has punctured the skin.
If your child has nerve damage associated with a humeral fracture, your child will experience sensory changes such as tingling and numbness under the fracture site. Normal wrist and hand movements may not function. Injury to the radial nerve is common in humeral shaft fractures.
Diagnosis of a Humerus Fracture
Humeral fractures can limit your child’s ability to easily perform daily tasks. It is important to see a doctor if you suspect a humerus fracture. To best diagnose your child’s injury, your doctor will ask you a series of questions about your child’s medical history and how the injury occurred. One or more of these tests can pinpoint the exact location of the fracture.
Doctors can identify the location and severity of the fracture by this test, which is the first one performed. Through the shoulder and upper arm region, an X-ray beam is used to perform the procedure. As a result of bone’s ability to absorb radiation, it appears in the reversed picture. Typically, this examination is enough to determine the fracture’s site and degree.
Computed tomography scan
If the X-ray is not clear, the doctor will order a CAT scan, which combines computer and X-ray technology.
Magnetic resonance imaging
An MRI is done when more images are needed, an evaluation of surrounding soft tissue structures is needed, or the patient is no longer exposed to radiation. It uses a magnetic field that produces vibrations by means of radio waves directed at the shoulder and upper arm area. These vibrations are transferred to high-resolution computer images.
How is a Humerus Fracture Treated?
Treatment for humerus fractures relies on a number of variables, including the form of fracture and the presence of any free bone pieces. Your doctor will first take an X-ray of your child’s arm to identify the best course of action. The doctor could also ask the child to raise or lower the arm as well. The doctor can use this information to assess the type of fracture your child has and whether your child has sustained any additional injuries. Because the shattered ends frequently remain close together, surgery is frequently not necessary for proximal and mid-shaft humerus fractures.
Your child’s humerus can recover on its own more quickly as a result. To prevent your arm from moving and, if necessary, stabilize your shoulder, your child will still need to wear a sling, brace, or splint. The doctor may recommend surgery to replace your shoulder joint with a prosthesis or to insert plates, screws, or rods. Most distal fractures and more serious proximal or mid-shaft fractures require surgery. Your doctor could use one of two major approaches:
Pins and screws
A surgeon may need to clean up the fractured ends of your child’s humerus if your child has an open fracture, which means a portion of bone protrudes through the skin. The doctor may also use pins, screws, and plates to stabilize the broken ends of your child’s humerus.
The surgeon may use a chunk of bone from another part of your child’s body or from a donor and add it to your humerus if a portion of the bone has been lost or severely crushed. In extreme circumstances, physicians may even utilize an artificial substance to produce a new bone fragment. Your doctor will likely advise physical therapy whether or not your child will require surgery as a follow-up. You child will learn exercises and motions to assist in strengthening his or her arm muscles and recover a range of motion.
If the humerus fracture is stable or not out of place, the doctor will recommend a splint to stabilize it and allow it to heal. This type of non-surgical approach is monitored throughout the healing process to ensure there are no complications and that the bone is indeed healing normally. Patients can begin moving their injured arm after a few weeks. Also, children should avoid lifting heavy objects until the fracture is completely healed.
How Long Does it Take to Heal a Humerus Fracture?
The type of fracture your child has will have a big impact on how long it takes to heal. Your child will have to wear a sling for two to six weeks if your child’s fracture doesn’t require surgery. Fractures near the proximal end heal the fastest, whereas those farther out take the longest. After surgery, your child might need to spend a few weeks wearing a cast, sling, splint, or brace. Your child must visit our doctor frequently during this time so they can assess how well the fracture is mending. Your child could require X-rays every few weeks for a number of months if the fracture is serious. Within a few months, the majority of people are able to resume their normal level of exercise. To recover lost joint mobility, your child may occasionally need physical treatment or occupational therapy.
How can Parents Prevent their Child from Getting a Humerus Fracture?
The possibility of humerus fractures might rise in specific sports and environmental factors. These include snowboarding, skiing, football, rugby, wrestling, and basketball. A humerus fracture can also result from osteoporosis, a disorder that weakens the bones, or after a fall, even a small one.
What’s the Outlook?
Finally, most humerus fractures eventually mend without having any adverse effects on long-term health. Consult your doctor as soon as you notice that your child may have fracture symptoms for the quickest recovery. Maintaining the course of treatment prescribed by your doctors, such as physical therapy or exercises to help your child regain strength and flexibility, will also increase your child’s chances of recovering quickly.
Every year, hundreds of children, teens, and young adults with fractures of all sorts and degrees of complexity are treated by the orthopedics and fracture experts at “Medical City Children’s Orthopedic and Spine Specialists“ with offices in Arlington, Dallas, Flower Mound, Frisco, and McKinney, TX. Furthermore, our expertise in children allows us to precisely diagnose diseases affecting the growing musculoskeletal system and establish appropriate treatment plans. Orthopedic injuries that require immediate medical attention but are not serious enough to warrant emergency room care are treated by our orthopedic specialists.
Call 214-556-0590 to make an appointment.
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