How a broken elbow is treated depends largely on the type of injury. Treatment could involve nothing more than applying a splint to the arm and keeping it elevated as much as possible. On the other hand, it could involve surgery to repair not only damaged bones, but damaged blood vessels and nerves.
Treatment will also depend on your age. As an example, children and adults usually injure their elbows in different ways, and they also heal differently.
If you have broken your elbow, at some point you will almost certainly require medication. Oral medications are frequently used for mild pain, whereas injections may be needed for pain that is moderate to severe – this type of medication can be delivered directly into the joint. If the elbow needs to be re-set, you will probably require a sedative to help you relax while the doctor re-sets the bone.
Re-setting the bone not only puts it back into its correct position, but it will also go a long way toward relieving pain. Frequently, broken bones can cut blood vessels and nerves, or press on them. Re-setting the bones stops this sort of damage. Medications can be provided during the re-setting process, as well as afterward to help with pain relief as healing progresses.
If you have a compound injury (an injury in which at least one of the bones at your elbow is protruding through the skin), you may need an operation. With this type of injury, there is a good chance that blood vessels and nerves have been damaged. Additionally, the bone and surrounding tissue will need to be cleaned before the bone is put back in place, in order to prevent infection.
If the elbow joint is filled with fluid, it can be drained. This will relieve pain and pressure.
Splints, Slings and Casts
Splints are used for a variety of elbow injuries. They are usually made from plaster, and placed on the back of your arm in order to hold your elbow in a fixed position. Usually, the splint will extend from your hand to your shoulder, so that the hand cannot turn and the elbow will not bend, possibly preventing a fracture from healing or further dislocating the elbow.
You may also require a sling so that your arm can rest. You may be asked to remove it when you are at home, and elevate your arm in order to alleviate the swelling.
In most cases, you will not be fitted with a cast. This is because casts cover the arm completely, and if there is swelling under the cast, it could damage blood vessels and nerves.
Some joints can be fairly “forgiving” as they heal. The elbow, however, will not forgive and could heal badly, causing you to experience discomfort down the road. So make sure to follow your doctors advice to the letter if you are diagnosed with a broken elbow, and also be sure to keep any follow up appointments that are scheduled.
If you have any specific questions, please visit one of our offices or contact us at our offices in West Bloomfield, Howell, Warren, or Macomb.