Olecranon Fractures: Treatment & Management
Our elbow is a complex hinge joint made up of three different bones. It can also perform various functions. The elbow is able to bend and straighten up, rotate and turning up and down. When you try to bend your elbow, the sharp tip protruding out is called the olecranon. Olecranon fractures are injuries that affect the particular bone.
After a patient suffers from an Olecranon fracture, the first thing a doctor will administer is ice and pain relief medication followed by elbow immobilization. The doctor will then determine if surgery is required depending on the extent of the fracture.
Patients who do not have a severe fracture will not be required to undergo surgery. Nonsurgical treatment is fairly straightforward. The patient will need to immobilize the fractured elbow using a splint or sling during the healing process. The patient will also need to visit the hospital once a week for X-ray imaging to monitor the healing process. If there are no protruding bone fragments, movement will resume after a month. During the healing process, a physiotherapist will be assigned to teach basic strengthening exercises. If the fracture shifts during this process, the patient will eventually surgery to piece the bones together.
Surgery will be needed for patients who have serious fractures such as an open fracture or displaced fracture. In a displaced fracture, the fracture is out of place. This is due to the strong attachment of the bicep muscles to the olecranon. Once the fracture is out of place, the elbow will be unable to straighten at all. An open fracture on the other hand means that the bone fragments have cut the skin, leading to an increased risk of infection. This is a much more serious condition and patients will be administered with antibiotics and tetanus shot. An incision will be made at the back of the elbow where the surgeon will piece the bone fragments together again. Large pieces of bones may be joined together using pins, wires, screws or plates and these metal implants can be permanent or biodegradable.
Following surgery, rehabilitation will be required in order to regain the elbow to its previous condition. As the healing process is lengthy, bone resorption could have taken place. As such, the region is much weaker. A physiotherapist will thus concentrate on regaining bone mass and muscular strength in the elbow.