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What Is a Supracondylar Humerus Fracture?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 August 2016
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A supracondylar humerus fracture is an injury to the humerus, which is a bone in the arm that runs from the shoulder to the elbow. A fracture occurs when a crack develops in that bone, most often from some sort of impact or fall. The bone may break entirely, requiring surgery to correct the condition. A supracondylar humerus fracture is not a common injury in adults, though it is exceptionally common among children and elderly people suffering from osteoporosis or weakened bones.

The most common ways to for a supracondylar humerus fracture to occur include falls, impacts, car accidents, and gunshot wounds. The fracture occurs in the humerus bone in the upper arm, and the degree of the fracture can vary. Minor fractures may manifest themselves as small cracks, while more severe fractures may cause the bone to separate from itself entirely. When this occurs, the patient is likely to experience severe pain, and damage to surrounding soft tissues is likely. Treatment for a supracondylar humerus fracture will need to be done immediately to prevent further injury and to alleviate pain.

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Part of the danger of a supracondylar humerus fracture is the likelihood that an artery can be damaged by the fractured bone. If this happens, severe bleeding may occur and other serious complications may arise. Minor fractures are not likely to lead to such situations, but moderate or severe fractures run the risk of damaging the arteries in the arm. A minor fracture is usually treated by casting the arm for immobility; the person will not be able to move his or her arm for several weeks while the bone mends. More serious cases of a supracondylar humerus fracture may require the doctor to manipulate the bone back in place before it is casted. Once casted, the bone will be immobilized so it can heal. Physical therapy will be necessary once the bone heals.

The most severe cases of a supracondylar humerus fracture will require surgery to repair. A doctor will reset the bone and insert pins or screws to stabilize it while it heals. The doctor may also repair soft tissue damaged by the fracture during the surgery. The recovery time for such an injury will be fairly extended, and the arm will need to be immobilized for an extended period of time. Physical therapy will be necessary once the bone has healed sufficiently.

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