Understanding the Basics Behind Fracture Management
What is Fracture Management?
Elbow fractures are a relatively common injury that could happen to anyone at any time.
Whether it’s a workplace or vehicle accident, an athletic injury, or a fall at home, a fracture can greatly impact your daily life.
The goal of fracture management is to treat the fracture through stabilization and pain control. With the help and expertise of an experienced orthopedic specialist, Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance can ensure a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. With over 140 years of combined service, we utilize the best technologies and techniques customized to each patient.
After your initial examination with a KCOA physician, we will recommend the best treatment for your needs. Our practitioners provide the comprehensive care you need so you can return to the activities you enjoy.
Signs of an elbow fracture include:
- Sudden intense pain
- Unable to straighten your elbow
- Tenderness in the affected area
- Pain with movement of the joint
Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance Elbow Injuries Assessment
Assessing the Injury
Determining the proper elbow treatment starts with an assessment from one of our experienced providers.
You can think of elbow pain as a spectrum, with some instances being more severe than others. The KCOA orthopedic specialists always focus on each individual patient and their concerns before creating a treatment plan.
Therefore, during your initial appointment, we will often ask questions such as:
The answers to these questions help shape the next steps of the assessment process and guide our physical examination. After a proper assessment, we often begin with a physical examination to help determine the origin point of your pain. In some cases, advanced testing may be required for a full diagnosis.
- Does your pain currently limit you or your activities?
- Has your pain progressed or worsened recently?
- Have you experienced any tingling or numbness in your arm or fingers that makes tasks difficult?
- Did you notice or hear a popping sound at the time of your injury?
- Have you noticed any change in your symptoms that has made it more challenging to function?
- What are your lifestyle goals?
- How has pain affected those goals?
Also called radiographs, an X-ray captures a picture of the elbow. Orthopedic physicians may order an X-ray to rule out the possibility of a fracture (broken bone), osteoarthritis, or other elbow-related conditions.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
MRI captures images of muscles, bones, and tendons to help provide information other tests can’t detail. During an MRI, you will lie on a table that slides into a tube-shaped scanner. The machine creates a magnetic field around you, using pulsed radio waves to form the MRI images of the body parts being examined. Injecting a specific dye into the joint prior to the MRI may provide improved visualization of a suspected UCL injury.
Establishing a Care Plan
Based on the results of your interview, examination, and imaging studies, you can expect a custom care plan catered specifically to you.
Many people believe it’s best to wait until pain becomes severe, leading them to “put off” or delay treatments like Tommy John surgery.
If you are in constant discomfort, have shooting or stabbing pains, have limited range of motion, or an inability to perform your daily activities, Tommy John surgery may be right for you.
New technologies allow patients with elbow pain to fully recover and enjoy the benefits of a more functional, pain-free lifestyle.
Prior to surgery, you will typically receive at least 2 phone calls:
- A hospital registration representative will call to gather insurance and other personal information.
- A registered nurse will call to review your health history and medication information.
Dependent on your health history, your physician may require:
- Pre-surgical laboratory tests
- Primary care clearance
Pre-operative instructions will vary depending on your physician and the location of your surgery. Always check with your physician prior to surgery.
Most physicians require that patients not eat or drink after midnight prior to surgery the next day.
Additionally, you will need a designated family member or friend to drive you home on the day you are released from the hospital. Surgical patients cannot drive themselves home.
Day of Surgery
If you schedule your surgery with a KCOA physician, you can expect the following on surgery day:
- A receptionist will check you in at the hospital registration desk.
- A nurse will take you back and prepare you for surgery. They will start an IV, prepare the surgical site, and review your medical history and medications.
- Your surgeon and anesthesiologist will visit with you prior to your operation.
- The surgical team will take you to the operation suite for surgery.
How it Works
The type of procedure necessary to repair an elbow fracture can vary tremendously based on the extent of the damage observed with imaging studies or arthroscopy.
Significant fractures may require a more open approach using larger incisions to allow the surgeon better access in visualizing and repairing the damaged area. We are always conscious about minimizing incision size, bone loss and bleeding with any surgical procedure of the elbow.
If a bone in your elbow is fully displaced, your provider may recommend surgery to help fix the issue. This will involve putting the pieces back in their proper alignment to allow for healing.
This can involve a few different surgical procedures, including closed reduction with percutaneous pinning or open reduction with internal fixation.
After your surgery, you will remain in the recovery room while our experienced clinical team monitors you, providing pain relief medication if needed.
Many of our fracture repair patients are able to return home that day, but others may require a brief hospital stay.
In most cases involving an elbow fracture, a large dressing may be placed over the surgical site and you may be fitted with a brace, splint or sling.
You can expect swelling, soreness and bruising in your elbow for several days after surgery. The swelling and discoloration may also spread to your hand or lower arm. It’s important to keep your arm elevated with an ice pack after surgery to reduce swelling and soreness.
What to Expect
Each fracture and your recovery is dependent on a variety of factors including your health prior to the injury and the extent of the damage that occurred.
Because of this, predicting recovery times is challenging, but it may take several months to regain normal range of motion, strength and function of your elbow.
Additionally, it’s recommended that patients exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet to help aid the recovery process. This helps to alleviate stress to the joint and allows for quicker healing.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Elbow Injuries
With so many different parts working together in your elbow, there are many potential causes of elbow pain. And each of those causes has a unique set of symptoms.
Elbow fractures can occur in the form of a radial head and neck fractures, olecranon fractures, or a fracture of the distal humerus. Sprains, strains, and dislocations can also occur simultaneously. Our team will perform an X-ray to confirm and evaluate the extent of your elbow injury.
Elbow fractures can occur in a number of ways, including direct blows, like a fall or impact from an object, indirect blows, or due to underlying conditions like osteoporosis.
Causes of Elbow Pain
The body has different kinds of joints, and they all face different challenges. The elbow is a complex joint that connects 3 different bones: the humerus (upper arm), ulna (pinky side forearm), and radius (thumb side forearm). Covering the surface where these bones meet is articular cartilage, a smooth substance that protects the joint by cushioning and absorbing forces.
On the inside and outside of this joint are ligaments that hold the elbow together and prevent dislocation. One of these ligaments is the UCL, a small ligament on the inner portion of the elbow that provides stability for the elbow joint.
Injuries to the UCL can come from acute trauma after a fall from a height or if the joint bends the wrong way, but the most common cause of UCL damage is gradual stretching of the ligament over time from repeated significant forces across the elbow joint. Elite baseball pitchers typically suffer from this kind of joint stress, but other repetitive movements in activities like weight lifting can also cause UCL damage.
Generally, surgery is not the first choice for treatment at Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance. If we can treat your elbow fractures with more conservative treatments, we will do so. We typically exhaust all non-surgical options prior to recommending surgery.
Non-surgical treatments for elbow fractures include:
- Physical Therapy/Occupational Therapy- Seeking out guidance from a trained therapist to help restore function and strength is often a preferred treatment. Therapists are experts in the musculoskeletal system, and their ability to assist with manual techniques or exercise instruction can lead to excellent outcomes.
- Medications – Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter NSAIDs (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Advil) or prescription medications. Especially with NSAIDs, you should always talk to your doctor to ensure they are the right treatment for you.
- Immobilization – Immobilization involves the use of casts, splints, or slings to allow the affected area to heal. With immobilization, we can protect the elbow fracture and allow the area to heal, while reducing pain and swelling.
Kansas City Orthopedic Alliance is here to help.
Our care is personal. Our team is knowledgeable. And we’re more available than ever.
With access to board-certified specialists across Kansas City, we have the tools to meet almost every musculoskeletal condition.
Overland Park, Kansas10777 Nall Ave Suite 300 Overland Park, KS 66211
Leawood, Kansas3651 College Blvd. Leawood, KS 66211
Kansas City, MissouriSaint Luke's Medical Plaza #1 4320 Wornall Rd., Ste. 610 Kansas City, MO 64111
Belton, MissouriBelton Regional Campus 17067 S Outer Rd #301 Belton, MO 64012
Merriam, Kansas7450 W. Frontage Rd Merriam, KS 66203
Frequently Asked Questions
I left a very happy patient.
…I arrived a little bit late. I got checked in quickly and was back in a room within 10 minutes. Dr Rhodes was very friendly and took the time to pull up pictures of my surgery and show them and explain them to me. I left a very happy patient.
Dr. Mark Winston is the best.
Dr. Mark Winston is the best. He is a caring and attentive physician who made a very painful injury so much easier for me. The staff is very professional and do an awesome job.
Dr. Ting was very thorough
Dr. Ting was very thorough, and communicated my ailment very well.
Full knee replacement and walking the 1st day. I’m still blown away. Dr Abraham is excellent. He is very detailed, and gives good direction, on which preferred treatment, is best for each individual. Most Grateful ,for his true care.
Staff is great
…just did my husbands hands on Wed. last week and can’t believe how well he is doing. We have already recommended you to our son and a few others. Your staff is great and my husband doing well. Thanks to you.