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The humerus is one of the long bones of the arm. The distal, or bottom, end contributes to the elbow joint. The proximal, or top, end contributes to the shoulder joint.
Fractures of the humerus typically occur as the result of a trauma, such as a fall where the individual lands directly on the shoulder, a forceful collision, or a more complicated event, such as a car accident. Typically, the position of the arm and body at the time of the trauma will determine how the bone fractures. Individuals of any age and gender may suffer this type of fracture. Individuals who suffer from osteoporosis, or the weakening of bone tissue, may have an increased risk of fracture during any traumatic event.
Humerus fractures may occur in a number of ways:
Humerus fractures can be very painful and may prevent you from moving your arm.Additional symptoms include:
During the examination, your physician will examine the skin to see if there are any lacerations, feel all around the arm to determine if there are any other areas of tenderness, and check the pulse at the wrist to ensure that good blood flow is getting past the elbow to the hand. In addition, your physician will check to see if you can move your fingers and wrist, and identify if you can feel things with your fingers. Lastly, an X-ray is often taken to confirm the fracture. If further information is needed, such as investigating if any soft tissues are also injured, an MRI or CT scan may be required.
Determining when surgery is required depends on a number of factors. Fractures close to the shoulder and elbow joints, especially fractures that extend into the joint, are more likely to require surgery. Conversely, fractures in the center of the shaft of the bone rarely require surgery. Eighty percent of humerus injuries are non-displaced or minimally displaced; therefore, they can be treated non-surgically. These patients can be treated with a sling or brace for immobilization, and with time, the fracture will heal. In severe cases, when the bone fragments are far out of position, surgery may be required. Surgery for a humerus fracture typically involves putting the pieces of the fractured bone back into place.