Olecranon Fracture

Olecranon fracture

The Olecranon is the large bony prominence at the back of the elbow. It is usually fractured from a direct impact or fall onto a bent elbow. Here we explain the signs, symptoms, causes, and treatment for Olecranon fractures.

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Symptoms of an Olecranon fracture

  • Sudden intense pain at the back of the elbow will be felt at the time of injury.
  • The patient will in most cases be unable to straighten their elbow.
  • Rapid swelling and bruising may start to appear.
  • Attempting to move the elbow will be very painful.
  • The back of the elbow will be very tender to touch.

Diagnosis

  • An X-ray will be required to determine the extent of displacement of the fractured bone segment.
Olecranon fracture X ray

Causes

An Olecranon fracture is most often caused by direct trauma to the back of the elbow, or from falling onto the bony part at the back of the elbow.

It can also occur as a result of a very forceful contraction of the triceps muscle.

This may happen when falling onto an outstretched hand, with the elbow bent.

Anatomy

Olecranon process

The elbow joint comprises the radius and ulna bones of the forearm, and the humerus bone (upper arm).

The Olecranon process is the prominent bony protrusion at the elbow end of the ulna bone. It can easily be felt as a bony protrusion at the back of your elbow.

Triceps tendinopathy

The triceps muscle attaches to the Olecranon process at the back of the elbow.

Treatment

If you suspect you may have an Olecranon fracture then seek medical attention immediately.

  • Apply the PRICE principles of protection, rest, ice, compression, and elevation.
  • A doctor may prescribe pain medication and the use of a sling to avoid further injury.
  • If the fragment is not displaced then your elbow will most likely be immobilised in a splint or cast to allow healing.
  • However, if the fragment is displaced, then surgery may be needed to realign the fragment of bone and fix it securely in place.

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