by Calvagna M
(Broken Arm; Radial Fracture; Ulnar Fracture)

Definition

A forearm fracture is a break in one or both bones of the forearm.

Forearm Fracture with Swelling
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Causes

This injury is caused by trauma from:

  • Fall on an outstretched hand
  • Direct blow to the forearm
  • An object in the air that hits the forearm
  • A motor vehicle accident

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this injury are:

  • Playing contact sports
  • Health problems that weaken bones, such as osteoporosis
  • Health problems that result in falls, such as weak muscles

Symptoms

A forearm fracture may cause:

  • Pain that is worse when moving the arm
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Problems moving the arm
  • A change in the way the arm looks

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You will be asked how the injury happened. An exam will be done that focuses on your arm.

Images may be taken of the arm. This can be done with:

Treatment

How it is treated depends on whether the injury is mild or severe. Options may be:

Initial Care

Initial care may be:

  • Ice to ease pain and swelling
  • Medicine to ease pain
  • A splint, brace, cast, or sling to keep the bones of the arm in place as it heals
  • Exercises to help with strength and motion

Children's bones have growth plates that let bones grow and harden with age. A child with this type of fracture will need to be checked over time to make sure the bone heals the right way and keeps growing.

Putting Bones Back In Place

Some fractures cause pieces of bone to come apart. These pieces will need to be put back into place. This may be done:

  • Without surgery—anesthesia will be used to ease pain while the doctor moves the pieces back into place
  • With surgery—pins, screws, plates, or wires may be used to reconnect the pieces and hold them in place

Prevention

Most fractures are due to accidents. Healthy bones and muscles may prevent injury. This may be done through diet and exercise.

RESOURCES

American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine  http://www.sportsmed.org 

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

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Orthopaedic Association  http://www.coa-aco.org 

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

References

Adult forearm fractures. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00584. Updated July 2011. Accessed September 25, 2019.

Distal radius fracture—emergency management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:  https://www.dynamed.com/management/distal-radius-fracture-emergency-management  . Accessed September 25, 2019.

Niver GE, Ilyas AM. Carpal tunnel syndrome after distal radius fracture. Orthop Clin North Am. 2012 Oct;43(4):521-527.

Revision Information