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Forearm Fracture

(Broken Arm; Radial Fracture; Ulnar Fracture)

Definition

A forearm fracture is a break in one or both bones of the forearm.
The forearm consists of two bones:
Forearm Fracture with Swelling
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Causes

A forearm fracture is caused by trauma to the bone. Trauma may include:

Risk Factors

Forearm fracture is more common in older adults.
Factors that may increase your risk of forearm fracture include:

Symptoms

A forearm fracture may cause:

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms, your physical activity, and how the injury occurred. The injured area will be examined.
Imaging tests assess the bones, surrounding structures, and soft tissues. This can be done with:

Treatment

Proper treatment can prevent long-term complications or problems with your forearm. Treatment will depend on how serious the fracture is, but may include:

Initial Care

Extra support may be needed to protect, support, and keep your forearm in line while it heals. Supportive steps may include a splint, brace, or cast. A sling may be necessary to help stabilize your arm.
Some fractures cause pieces of bone to separate. Your doctor will need to put these pieces back into their proper place. This may be done:
  • Without surgery—you will have anesthesia to decrease pain while the doctor moves the pieces back into place
  • With surgery—pins, screws, plates, or wires may be needed to reconnect the pieces and hold them in place
Children’s bones are still growing at an area of the bone called the growth plate. If the fracture affected the growth plate, your child may need to see a specialist. Injuries to the growth plate will need to be monitored to make sure the bone can continue to grow as expected.

Medication

The following medications may be advised:
  • Over-the-counter medication to reduce inflammation and pain
  • Prescription pain medication
Check with your doctor before taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or aspirin.
Note: Aspirin is not recommended for children or teens with a current or recent viral infection. This is because of the risk of Reye syndrome. Ask your doctor which medications are safe for your child.

Rehabilitation

You may be referred to physical therapy or rehabilitation to start range-of-motion and strengthening exercises.

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of a forearm fracture, take these steps:
To help reduce falling hazards at work and home, take these steps:

RESOURCES

American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine http://www.sportsmed.org

Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons http://www.orthoinfo.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://www.coa-aco.org

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation http://www.canorth.org

References

Adult forearm fractures. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Ortho Info website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00584. Updated July 2011. Accessed September 25, 2014.

Distal radius fracture. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 15, 2014. Accessed September 25, 2014.

Preventing falls and related fractures. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health%5FInfo/Bone/Osteoporosis/Fracture/prevent%5Ffalls.asp. Updated January 2012. Accessed September 25, 2014.

4/25/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance. http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Bruno MA, Weissman BN. American College of Radiology (ACR) Appropriateness Criteria for acute hand and wrist trauma. Available at: http://www.acr.org/~/media/ACR/Documents/AppCriteria/Diagnostic/AcuteHandAndWristTrauma.pdf. Updated 2013. Accessed September 25, 2014.

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