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Distal Humerus Fractures

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Distal Humerus Fractures

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A distal humerus fracture involves a break in the lower end of the humerus bone, one of three bones that compose the elbow joint. A break in this area may be painful and make it challenging to move the elbow. A minor slip and fall accident may be enough to cause a break in the distal end of the humerus in the elderly population, particularly those with weaker bones. High-energy events are reported in most distal humeral fracture cases, such as blunt force trauma to the elbow in a motor vehicle accident. Treatment for this type of bone fracture generally requires surgical intervention to restore motion in the elbow joint.

Our personal injury lawyers have over three decades of experience helping people who have gotten hurt in accidents in Sacramento and across California. If you have suffered a distal humerus fracture, contact us for free, friendly case advice at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400 today.

One of the most trying times of your life may be dealing with the aftermath of a catastrophic accident. To make matters worse, in such a situation, the insurer representing the other party will do everything in their power to take advantage of you in your vulnerable position and pay as little as possible on your claim to protect their bottom line. When you turn to our personal injury law firm for assistance, you can rest assured knowing that your rights will be protected throughout the process. Whether through negotiating an insurance settlement or bringing your case to civil court, our injury lawyers will work diligently to ensure you are fairly compensated for the injuries and losses you have suffered.

What is a Distal Humeral Fracture?

A fracture of the distal humerus represents roughly two percent of all bone fracture cases in the adult population. It involves a fracture in the distal region of the humerus bone. From an anatomical perspective, the distal humerus is described as having a shape similar to a triangle and is composed of two columns and a tie arch.

This type of upper extremity injury may be a comminuted fracture where the bone has a slight crack or has broken into several fragments. Conversely, a displaced fracture may occur when the broken bone fragments may be out of place or line up straight. In cases where a wound has penetrated down to the bone or the fragments of bone have pierced through the skin, immediate medical treatment is necessary to prevent infection. These are otherwise known as open fracture cases.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Broken Distal Humerus?

Following is a list of some of the symptoms of a fractured distal humerus:

  • A broken bone may stick out of the skin (compound fracture)
  • Bruising, stiffness, and swelling
  • Difficulty moving the elbow
  • Instability in the elbow joint
  • Tenderness to the touch

A fracture of the distal humerus requires a thoroughly planned approach, particularly in consideration of surgical intervention, to restore the anatomy of the elbow and obtain favorable functional outcomes.

How Do Doctors Treat a Fractured Distal Humerus?

In an emergency room setting, a physician may treat a patient presenting with a fracture of the distal humerus by applying a splint to the elbow. A doctor may also provide the patient with a sling to help maintain the elbow in the proper position. Immediate medical care may also include medications for pain relief and the application of ice to reduce swelling and pain.

Non-surgical management may be recommended in stable fracture cases where the bone fragments are in place. This type of approach may also be recommended for patients deemed non-surgical candidates because of underlying medical conditions such as osteoporosis. A splint is generally worn for approximately six weeks before the initiation of supervised motion. When it has been determined that the fracture has shifted out of position, surgical management may be necessary to put the bones back into proper alignment.

Does a Distal Humeral Fracture Require Surgery?

In distal humerus fracture cases, the surgical intervention involves bone fragments puncturing the skin (compound fracture), or the bones are not in place (displaced fracture). Surgical management is often scheduled immediately in compound fracture cases due to the increased risk of infection. A patient may be administered a tetanus shot and antibiotics via IV in the ER. The surfaces of the bone fragments and cuts from the upper extremity injury are thoroughly cleaned out during surgery. Some of the types of surgical techniques in distal humeral fracture cases may include:

  • Arthrodesis: In an active and young patient, arthrodesis may be recommended instead of total elbow replacement in severe distal humerus fractures. During fusion, the physician will apply screws and plates to allow the growth or fusion of the olecranon and the humerus as one bone. After arthrodesis, the patient will regain strength in the affected elbow joint and maintain the ability of hand rotation. However, the ability to bend the elbow after surgery may be lost.
  • Arthroplasty: A patient presenting with severe damage of the humerus bone that cannot be adequately repaired and requires replacement, arthroplasty may be necessary. A patient that has undergone this type of surgical procedure is not permitted to lift more than five pounds with the injured arm for the remainder of their life. This surgical technique is generally reserved for patients that are not required to lift heavy objects and are older.
  • External Fixation: A physician may apply an external fixator in severe compound fracture cases to keep the bones in position until a second surgical procedure occurs. For this surgery, the doctor will insert metal pins through the bones through small incisions made in the skin. Carbon fiber bars are then attached to the pins that stick out of the skin. The purpose of the external fixator is to maintain the position of the elbow, allow the damaged skin ample time to improve, and decrease the risk of infection from a compound fracture before a physician performs a second surgery.
  • Open Reduction and Internal Fixation (ORIF): Open reduction and internal fixation is the type of surgery most often utilized to treat distal humeral fractures. During ORIF, the broken bones are reduced into proper alignment and held in position with screws and plates attached to the outside of the bone.

As with any surgical approach comes the risk of complications. If surgical management is recommended in a distal humeral fracture case, the physician believes that the potential benefits outweigh risks such as damage to blood vessels and nerves, infection, and nonunion.

Can You Seek Compensation for Injuries Sustained in an Accident?

When you have suffered traumatic injuries in an accident, such as a fracture of the distal humerus, you may have weeks, months, or even years of extensive medical care and rehabilitation ahead of you. Such upper extremity injuries may affect your quality of life, ability to work and even lead to mounting medical expenses.

As you are recovering from accident-related injuries, it is encouraging to know that you may have options for financial compensation for such losses through a personal injury claim. Such cases are generally brought against the insurance company representing the party responsible for the crash resulting in injuries.

Recovery through a personal injury case may include economic damages that consider financial losses in connection to the crash and non-economic damages that reflect the intangible harms that may have occurred due to the incident in question. Keep in mind that the claims process may not be straightforward as there may be unique factors involved. To learn more, watch this video.

How Can an Accident Attorney Help You with Your Personal Injury Case?

When you have suffered upper extremity injuries such as a distal humeral fracture in a collision through no fault of your own, an experienced injury lawyer may help you seek financial compensation from the party that caused the incident. A skilled accident attorney may help you by:

  • Conducting an independent investigation of the accident to determine whether you have a viable case
  • Collecting evidence to support your personal injury claim
  • Identifying at-fault parties along with potential sources of financial recovery, such as bodily injury liability coverage and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM)
  • Providing you updates on your case at every step of the personal injury claims process
  • Working with expert witnesses to build a strong argument that proves which party was liable for the incident and the extent of economic and non-economic damages
  • Negotiating with the insurer on your behalf to seek a full and fair insurance settlement
  • Building a solid case to present in civil court when that becomes necessary and ensuring that a lawsuit is filed within the statute of limitations applicable to the case
Contact a Distal Humerus Fracture Attorney Today

Motor vehicle accidents are among the most common high-energy events resulting in fractures of the distal humerus. If you have suffered an upper extremity injury in an accident caused by another party or entity, speak with our personal injury lawyers in Sacramento about bringing a claim at (916) 921-6400 or (800) 404-5400. Our auto accident attorneys are available anytime to review the details of your case, answer your questions, and advise you on what to expect from the process moving forward.

At our law firm, we provide free, friendly advice on what options may be available for financial compensation and handle cases under a contingency fee arrangement. This means that there are no upfront fees due when you hire us to represent you. Fees for legal services will only be due if we obtain a favorable outcome in your case. We want to make the process as easy as possible for you following an accident, and that starts the moment you reach out to us for assistance.

Photograph Source: By “Karolina Grawboska” via Pexels

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