Supracondylar Fracture of the Humerus
I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Humeral Shaft Fracture Lawyer. Almost everyone knows someone who has broken their arm or has broken their own arm themselves. With so many bones in the arm, there are many different fractures that can arise. One fracture that can develop in an auto accident is called a supracondylar fracture of the humerus.
What is a Supracondylar Fracture of the Humerus?
The humerus is the bone that makes up the upper portion of the arm. It has two thickened projections where it joins the elbow called epicondyles. While some injuries might be humerus shaft fractures, a fracture just above these epicondyles is called a supracondylar fracture of the humerus.
How does this Fracture Develop?
Because of the way that bones thicken and develop, a supracondylar fracture is relatively rare in adults; however, they are very common in children. In fact, they are also seen in auto accidents. When the car stops short, the driver and passengers will extend their arms to protect themselves. If the elbow is locked when an impact is felt against the hands, the force is transmitted up the lower arm and elbow. This force will fracture the humerus just above the epicondyles in a common injury caused by car accidents.
Treatment is Dependent on the Other Injuries
A supracondylar fracture of the humerus is a medical emergency. Because of the location of the fracture, there are numerous complications that can develop and important structures can be damaged. Most fractures in this area will require surgery as medical professionals work to identify structures that have been damaged.
Complications of a Supracondylar Fracture of the Humerus
One of the complications that can develop is called Volkmann’s contracture. This is the name given to a permanent flexion of the hand at the level of the wrist. This leads to a hand that looks more like a claw. This develops due to loss of blood flow to the hand, leading to death of cells in the area.
Other Structures Are at Risk
The most important structure that could be damaged in this fracture is the brachial artery. This blood vessel delivers blood and oxygen to the arm and hand. Damage to this artery can lead to the death of tissue. The anterior interosseous nerve provides innervation to segments of the arm and hand. This peripheral nerve injury can be caused by this fracture as well.
The differential diagnosis includes:
- Elbow Fracture
- Humerus Shaft Fracture
- Distal Humerus Fracture
- Shoulder Dislocation
- Radius or Ulna Fracture
Prognosis of a Supracondylar Fracture of the Humerus
Because of the numerous complications and structures that could be damaged in this type of fracture, the prognosis will vary from patient to patient. If all of the ancillary structures are intact, the prognosis is very good. Extended loss of blood due to damage to the brachial artery or nerve damage in the region could lead to a worse prognosis.
If none of the other structures are damaged, surgery may not be required; however, damage to other structures will require surgery. If the fracture is displaced, orthopedic surgery will be asked to reduce the fracture. Pins may be required to hold the bones in place and facilitate proper union after traumatic injuries.
Sacramento Car Accident and Personal Injury Lawyers
I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Humeral Shaft Fracture Lawyer. Because of the complications that are associated with this fracture, medical bills can be expensive. If you, or a loved one, have been injured in an auto accident, please call me at (916) 921-6400 for friendly, free advice. My toll-free line is also available for those calling outside of Sacramento. Please dial (800) 404-5400.
Photo Attribution: Courtesy of English language Wikipedia, (own work) Chrisnorlin, CC BY-SA 3.0