April 1, 2019

What is an olecranon fracture (broken elbow)?

Hand, Wrist and Elbow | Trauma

An olecranon fracture is a break in the tip of the elbow. The olecranon is the tip of the elbow and is a part of the ulna, which is one of three bones that form the elbow joint. It’s located directly under the skin, which can make it an easy bone to break.

Depending on the severity of the elbow fracture, surgery may or may not be required.

How does an elbow fracture happen?

  • Falling directly on the elbow or falling on an outstretched arm
  • Getting hit with an object such as a softball
  • Being involved in a high impact collision, such as a car crash

What are the symptoms of a broken elbow?

  • Pain when moving the elbow
  • Bruising of the elbow
  • Tenderness if the elbow is touched
  • Swelling in the back of the elbow
  • Instability of the joint
  • Numbness in hand or fingers

How is an elbow fracture diagnosed?

A doctor will need to first examine your elbow to determine the severity of the injury.

The doctor will look for:

  • Cuts to check if the bone broke through the skin
  • Check the tenderness of your elbow and surrounding areas
  • Ensure that you are able to move your wrist and fingers
  • Check the blood flow to your hands
  • Check if other injuries surrounding your elbow occurred from the incident
  • Order X-rays of your elbow to get a better look at the bone


Broken elbow treatment

After arriving at an emergency room or urgent care, you may be given medication to relieve the pain as well as ice to help reduce swelling. Your elbow will be put into a splint to help keep your elbow in the correct position. Surgery may be required depending on the severity of the injury.

In some cases a broken elbow is a medical emergency. Call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. OrthoIndy Trauma physicians are at St.Vincent Indianapolis Level I Trauma Center. OrthoIndy also has urgent care clinics conveniently located throughout Indianapolis.

Nonsurgical treatment

  • If the fracture is in a good position, it may be treated by using a splint to hold the elbow joint while the bone begins to heal
  • During the healing process, your doctor will monitor the bone by getting periodical X-rays
  • Depending on how the bone heals will determine how long you are in the splint
  • If the bone doesn’t heal properly, you may need surgery

Broken elbow surgery

  • Olecranon fracture surgery will help position the broken bones back into the correct position
  • If the bone broke through the skin, surgery will be scheduled as soon as possible, often within hours, to help prevent infection


Your recovery time will vary, depending on the severity and how the fracture is treated. An elbow fracture typically requires a large amount of physical therapy to help regain strength and decrease stiffness.

Learn more about trauma care at OrthoIndy.

Schedule an appointment

Your well-being is important to us. Click the button below or call us to schedule an appointment with one of our orthopedic specialists. If your injury or condition is recent, you can walk right into one of our OrthoIndy Urgent Care locations for immediate care. For rehabilitation and physical therapy, no referral is needed to see one of our physical therapists.

Schedule an Appointment Call OrthoIndy 317.802.2000
McKenzie Muchow

By McKenzie Muchow

McKenzie is the current Marketing Assistant at OrthoIndy. McKenzie is responsible for online reputation management and creation of individual physician websites. McKenzie graduated from Butler University in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in strategic communications with a concentration in journalism. She has been with OrthoIndy since January 2018.

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