An olecranon fracture involves injury to the protuberant bone in the elbow. The bone is actually the end of the ulna and it is the point of attachment of the strong triceps muscles of the arm. It is important to note that the triceps are the muscles responsible for straightening the elbow and when an individual sustains an olecranon fracture, it can disrupt the ability of the individual to straighten the elbow joint.
This type of fracture can occur by falling directly on the elbow or by the triceps muscles pulling off a bone fragment from the joint. Take note that stress fractures are also a potential mechanism in which injury to the ulna occurs that is typically seen among baseball pitchers.
Indications of an olecranon fracture
Individuals who sustained trauma from a vehicular accident or a fall can experience pain in the elbow joint or difficulty in moving the elbow. In such cases, assessment is vital to determine if there is a fracture. The signs and symptoms of an olecranon fracture include:
- Pain at the back part of the elbow
- Swelling and bruising of the elbow joint
- Difficulty bending the elbow
- Deformity of the bone at the back of the elbow
The treatment for an olecranon fracture depends on the degree of displacement of the fractured fragments and the functionality of the triceps muscle. In case the fracture is not displaced or minimally displaced, surgery is the recommended treatment.
In such cases, protection from activity such as a sling or splint and rest can heal the fracture. Otherwise, surgery is the preferred treatment. Surgery is the appropriate treatment once the bony fragments are misaligned or if the triceps muscle is not working due to an injury.
There are various ways in which an olecranon fracture is surgically repaired. An incision is made on the back part of the elbow joint and the bone fragments are repositioned into the right location and secured in place using screws, pins, wires or plates.
After surgery, the individual is immobilized for a short period of time but the objective is to start elbow movement as soon as possible. In most cases, gentle motion is started within the initial weeks after surgery. The amount of motion allowed usually depends on the strength of the repair and the adjacent bone. The healing period for this fracture is about 10-12 weeks.