When is a splint needed for a humerus fracture?

The humerus is a long bone situated in between the elbow and shoulder joints in the upper arm. The bone is comprised of three anatomic parts – proximal, shaft and distal. Take note that the shaft can end up fractured due to trauma such as vehicular accidents, falls as well as birth trauma and gunshot wounds. In some cases of humerus fractures involving the shaft, it can occur due to a tumor that is present in the bone.

It is important to note that the shaft of the humerus close the shoulder or in between the shoulder and elbow can be fractured. Most cases of fractures are usually closed injuries where there is no break in the skin over the site of the fracture. Once the skin is broken during a fracture, it is called as an open fracture. The treatment for humerus fractures does not require surgery but some would require surgery to improve the outcome.

Humerus fracture

Most cases of fractures are usually closed injuries where there is no break in the skin over the site of the fracture.

When is a splint required?

In most cases of humerus fractures that involves the shaft; they can be managed with an initial coaptation splint and then followed by a functional brace or even a cast. Surgical intervention might be indicated for surgical repair of the humeral-shaft fractures that involves injury to the vessels, open fractures, severe soft tissue injury, pathologic fracture and severe displacement of the fractured fragments. As for fractures involving the proximal or distal region, they are not treated with coaptation splint.

Coaptation splint

This is a splint with a U-shape that is positioned within the axilla, enclosed around the elbow with the ends situated close at the top of the shoulder. The entire span of the humerus is included in this splint. The splint is used for 7-10 days until a definitive treatment is carried out such as a functional brace, cast or even surgery.


It is important to note that functional bracing is applied 7-10 days after a humerus fracture involving the shaft, but can also serve as an initial mode of treatment. Take note that the tension on the brace can be adjusted to help improve the alignment of the fractured fragments. This brace extends starting below the shoulder up to the shoulder to cover the humerus. It will allow a certain degree of movement of the fracture site during the healing process.

Length of treatment

The average time frame of treatment for a humerus fracture can range from 5-22 weeks. Based on a study conducted, functional bracing is considered as a definite treatment option for humeral-shaft fractures. By enrolling in a first aid class, you can learn the proper way to manage this condition.

Possible side effects

When it comes to humerus fractures involving the shaft that are treated non-surgically, they can end up with certain side effects including nonunion, infection, malunion and non-resolution of radial nerve palsy.

As for nonunion, the fractured site does not heal while malunion involves poor and partial healing of the fracture.