A humerus is a long bone of the upper arm. It extends from the shoulder to the elbow. A break or a fracture of this bone is called humerus fracture. The fracture can occur anywhere in the bone from the neck of the humerus (close to shoulder) till the elbow. Fracture which occurs near the elbow is termed as a supracondylar fracture.
Symptoms of Humerus Fracture
- Immediate pain is felt in the arm.
- Pain is felt upon movement of the arm while bending at the elbow or raising the arm.
- In case of bone displacement, the arm may appear crooked.
- Bruising is usually present.
- Swelling is also usually present.
- In case of compound fractures, the bone ruptures the skin.
- Tingling or numbness is present in case of nerve damage.
- Weakness in the arm and hand may be present if the nerve is damaged.
Causes of Humerus Fracture
- A fracture can be of various types, it can be an acute fracture or a stress fracture. Acute fracture is caused by a direct trauma or force to the bone. Stress fracture slowly develops over the time due to repeated force. Stress fractures of the humerus are very seldom because the humerus is not a weight bearing bone and it does not suffer from continuous pressure as other weight bearing bones such as the bones of the legs and feet which make them more prone to fracture.
- Athletes who are involved in sports which require throwing action such as Javelin or baseball suffer from a spiral fracture. This occurs at the mid shaft of the bone, immediately below where the deltoid muscle attaches. This spiral fracture happens very rarely. Falling onto an outstretched arm also results in a humerus fracture. Trauma or injury as seen during car accidents also results in a humerus fracture.
Classification of Humerus Fracture
Fracture Of The Humerus Is Divided Into Three Types
- Proximal Humerus Fractures: This type of fracture occurs close to the shoulder joint.
- Midshaft Humerus Fractures: This fracture generally is located in the shaft between the shoulder and elbow joint. Most of the times these heal without requiring surgery, however, some severe cases may require surgical intervention. Radial nerve injury is common in such fractures.
- Distal Humerus Fractures: Such fractures are rare. They occur close to the joints of the elbow. Majority of the times these fractures require surgery. This fracture occurs more commonly in children.
Treatment of Humerus Fracture
- An X-ray should be taken to confirm the fracture and to assess the severity of displacement.
- Immediate medical attention should be sought once the fracture is confirmed.
- A temporary cast or splint is placed till the swelling subsides.
- A full cast is applied afterwards for 4-8 weeks.
- Surgery is required in case the bone has fractured into more than 2 parts or if there is displacement of the bone. The parts of the bone are fixed with the help of pins or wires.
- After the bone has healed, the patient should start a rehabilitation program to regain mobility and strength of the arm.
Prognosis and Recovery following Humerus Fracture
Prognosis depends on level of humerus fracture. The recovery is near normal with mid shaft humerus fracture. Patient offen suffers with mild to moderate pain following healing of the proximal fracture. Prognosis often is not satisfactory if pain is continuous mostly with proximal and distal humerus fracture. Recovery from fracture is near normal with mid shaft humerus fracture. Overall outcome is much better when humerus fracture is healed. The recovery time after humerus fracture is between 8 to 10 weeks. Recovery time includes time for physical therapy once humerus fracture is healed.