Fracture of the Distal Shaft of the Humerus
I’m Ed Smith, a bone injury lawyer in Sacramento. Anyone who has fallen knows that there is an instinct to extend the hand to protect the body from impact. This is one of the most common ways that people can fracture the distal shaft of their humerus, also called a fracture of the distal third. This traumatic injury can be sustained in an auto accident as well.
What is a Fracture of the Distal Shaft of the Humerus?
The distal shaft of the humerus is the bottom part of the humerus that connects the elbow to the long bone of the arm. Above the distal shaft of the humerus is the midshaft, neck, and head of the humerus where it connects to the shoulder joint.
Humeral Distal Shaft Fracture: Mechanism of Injury
Because this is a relatively thick part of the humerus, a fracture in the distal third is not very common. When people think that trauma is impending, they will often extend their hand to protect themselves from chest trauma to the vital organs. In an auto accident, this happens when people extend their arms against the dashboard or steering wheel. If the elbow is braced, the force causes the ulna to impact the elbow where the distal third of the humerus meets the elbow. This fractures the distal humerus.
A fracture of the distal third of the humerus could show up with elbow and hand fractures depending on the nature of the injury. Regardless, imaging using x-rays will be required to evaluate the fracture. If the bone fragments are still in alignment, the entire arm will receive a cast. This will remain in place for several weeks as the bones heal. A displaced fracture will require surgery.
Distal Humerus Shaft Fracture Complications
The most notable complications arise when surgery is required. Some patients could develop an infection after the surgical procedure. This infection will require antibiotics to remove the pathogen from the fracture site. This is most common if screws or plates are required to place the bones in proper alignment.
Other Structures at Risk
Because the distal third of the humerus is near the ulna, the ulnar nerve is the most likely structure to be injured in this accident. The ulnar nerve provides motor and sensory function to the arm and hand. If this is damaged, patients may have trouble moving their arm in certain directions or lose sensation along parts of their arm and hand. Rehabilitation of this peripheral nerve injury may be needed to prevent this injury from becoming permanent.
The differential diagnosis for this kind of injury includes:
- Fracture of the shaft of the humerus
- Fracture of the humeral neck
- Fracture of the humeral head
- Elbow dislocation
- Fracture of either the radius or the ulna
Prognosis of Distal Humeral Shaft Fractures
If this fracture does not have any damage to associated structures or require surgery, the patient will need a long cast. It will stay in place for several weeks and the patient may feel stiff when the cast comes off. Regardless, the prognosis is excellent. If there are other structures that are damaged, the prognosis should be discussed with a medical professional.
A displaced fracture or a fracture that damages other structures will require surgery. Screws and plates will be used to place the bones back in proper position.
Bone Fracture Lawyers in Sacramento
I’m Ed Smith, a bone fracture lawyer in Sacramento. Bone fractures are common in car accidents and anyone with an injury should contact my office at (916) 921-6400 for friendly, free advice. My toll-free line is available at (800) 404-5400.
I am member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum in the state of California. As some of the top-trial lawyers in the country, we have won multiple million-dollar settlements for past customers.
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