HUMERAL HEAD FRACTURE

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The humerus — also known as the upper arm bone — is a long bone that runs from the shoulder and scapula (shoulder blade) to the elbow. Fractures of the humerus are classified in one of two ways: proximal humerus fracture or humerus shaft fracture.

A proximal humerus fracture usually occurs close to the shoulder joint and can be located at different levels with different fracture patterns: simple or comminuted. A humerus shaft fracture, on the other hand, is one that is localized at the mid portion of the upper arm.

GH JOINT ANATOMY

DISEASE EXPLAINED

SYMPTOMS

Symptoms vary depending on the specific type of fracture but may include:

Pain

Swelling and bruising

Inability to move the shoulder

A grinding sensation when the shoulder is moved

Deformity — “It does not look right.”

Occasionally bleeding (open fracture)

Loss of normal use of the arm if a nerve injury occurs

CAUSES

A broken arm is a common injury and is usually a consequence of a fall with an outstretched hand, a car crash or some other type of accident.

TREATMENT

TREATMENT OPTIONS

Treating a humerus fracture depends on several factors, including the type of fracture and whether there are any loose bone fragments. To determine the best treatment, your doctor will start by taking an X-ray of your arm. They may also have you do some movements with your arm. This will help them determine what kind of fracture you have and whether you have any other injuries.

In many cases, proximal and mid-shaft humerus fractures don’t require surgery because the broken ends usually stay close together. This makes it easier for your humerus to heal on its own. However, you’ll still need to wear a sling, brace, or splint to keep your arm from moving and stabilize your shoulder, if needed. Occasionally, surgery is required with either plates, screws, rods, or sometimes replacement of your shoulder joint with use of a prosthesis.

Distal fractures and more severe proximal or mid-shaft fractures usually require surgery. There are two main approaches that your surgeon may use:

Pins and screws. If you have an open fracture, which involves a piece of bone sticking through your skin, surgery will be required to clean up the broken ends and they may use pins and screws and plates to hold the broken ends of your humerus in place.

Bone grafting. If some of the bone has been lost or severely crushed, your surgeon may take a piece of bone from another area of your body or a donor and add it to your humerus. In some cases, doctors can even use an artificial material to create a new piece of bone.

Regardless of whether or not you need surgery, your doctor will probably suggest following up with physical therapy. This will help you learn exercises and movements you can do to help strengthen your arm muscles and regain your range of motion.

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