Humeral Shaft Fracture

The humerus is the bone in the arm from the shoulder to the elbow. Fractures of the humeral shaft are uncommon, representing 3% of all fractures. They are generally caused by high energy injuries such as motor vehicle accidents.

People with humeral shaft fractures generally have severe pain and a deformity of the arm after an injury. Humeral shaft fractures are also commonly associated with injury to the radial nerve which may cause a wrist drop.

The majority of humeral shaft fractures can be treated without surgery using a hanging arm cast, functional brace, or coaptation splint. People with more severe humeral shaft fractures or other concomitant injuries may need to have their fractures fixed with surgery.

The potential complications of surgery include but are not limited to: delayed union, nonunion, malunion, shoulder stiffness, incomplete relief of pain, incomplete return of function or motion, incomplete return to sport, need for further surgery, infections, heterotopic ossification, reactive bursitis, CRPS, nerve or vascular injury, hematoma, DVT/PE, and the risk of anesthesia including heart attack, stroke and death. Complications are uncommon and the most patients are satisfied with the results of surgery.

Following surgery people generally are placed into a posterior splint and should not use the arm for any lifting activities. Patients begin wrist and hand range of motion exercises immediately. They follow-up with there surgeon 10-14 days after surgery. The splint is removed and patients begin passive shoulder and elbow ROM exercises. At 6 weeks patients may begin strengthening exercises provided fracture union is evident on xray. At 3 months, ROM should be nearly full. Patients begin sport specific rehab exercises. Patients generally may return to full activites / sports by 6 months.

Every person and their particular circumstances are different so the treatment for your shoulder may be different than those discussed. Please read this information carefully. Write down any questions that you have about your shoulder and its treatment and discuss them with your orthopaedic surgeon.

Humeral Shaft fracture, broken arm

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