Dr McGuire’s

Orthopaedic Services

Olecranon Fractures

The elbow joint is made up of three bones, namely, the humerus, which is the upper arm bone, and the radius and ulna, which are the two forearm bones. The elbow joint is held together with muscles, ligaments and tendons. It bends and straightens like a hinge. It is also responsible for the rotation of the forearm. There are many different types of fractures that can occur around the elbow. Radial head fractures are common and discussed separately.

Another fairly common fracture is an olecranon fracture. An olecranon fracture is a break that occurs in the “pointy bone” of your elbow that sticks out when bending the arm, which is the upper end of the ulna. This type of fracture can occur in isolation or can be part of a more complex elbow injury. An olecranon fracture can occur due to a direct blow such as a fall on the elbow or direct impact from an object, or it may be caused by an indirect blow such as a fall on an outstretched hand.

An olecranon fracture causes a sudden and intense pain that can result in the inability to move the elbow. Other symptoms of an olecranon fracture can include swelling over the tip or back of the elbow, bruising around the elbow, tenderness to touch and numbness in one or more fingers. Pain may also be experienced when moving the elbow or when rotating the forearm. The elbow joint may also feel unstable as if it's going to pop out.

If an olecranon fracture is not displaced, it can be managed in a cast or splint. The triceps muscle attaches onto the olecranon, and sometimes this causes the fracture to displace. If this occurs, then there will be a gap in the joint, and surgery will be required to reduce and fix the fracture.

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