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by Woods M
(Upper Arm Fracture)

Definition

The humerus is the long bone in the upper arm. A humeral shaft fracture is a fracture of the long, narrow part of the bone.

Causes

These fractures are caused by trauma to the bone such as:

  • A motor vehicle accident
  • A twisting injury
  • Falling onto an outstretched hand
  • A direct blow to the bone

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your risk of a humeral shaft fracture include:

  • Playing high impact sports
  • Difficult childbirth (fracture in infant)

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Limited movement in the affected arm
  • Tenderness or pain, especially pain that worsens with movement
  • Deformity of the affected arm
  • Change in sensation in the affected arm

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms, medical history, and activities at the time of the injury. A physical exam will be done. Your arm will be examined.

Images will be taken of your arm to look for the fracture. This can be done with:

The Bones of the Body
IMAGE
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Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Most humeral shaft fractures will heal without surgery.

A cast, splint, or brace will be used to help the bone stay straight while healing. The bone may heal incorrectly without support.

Surgery

More severe fractures may need surgery to realign the broken pieces. Screws, plates, or wires may be used to hold the fracture in place.

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of getting a humeral shaft fracture, take these steps:

  • Wear proper padding and safety equipment when participating in sports or activities.
  • Always wear a seatbelt when riding in a motor vehicle.
  • Avoid activities that may result in falling.

RESOURCES

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians  http://www.familydoctor.org 

Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons  http://www.orthoinfo.org 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation   http://www.canorth.org 

Health Canada  http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca 

References

Humeral shaft fracture. Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America website. Available at: https://posna.org/Physician-Education/Study-Guide/Humeral-Shaft-Fractures. Accessed February 6, 2017.

Humeral shaft fracture—emergency management. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:  https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T902926/Humeral-shaft-fracture-emergency-management . Accessed June 20, 2017.

Spiguel A, Steffner R. Humeral shaft fractures. Curr Rev Musculoskeletal Med. 2012 Sep;5(3):177-183. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3535078.

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