April 17, 2019

What is a distal humerus fracture?

Hand, Wrist and Elbow | Trauma


A distal humerus fracture is a break in the lower end of the upper arm bone. The humerus is one of three bones that form the elbow joint. It forms the upper part of the elbow which helps you bend and straighten your arm.

How does a distal humerus fracture happen?

  • Falling directly on your elbow
  • A direct blow to the elbow such as getting hit by a baseball or the impact of a car crash

Distal humerus fractures can also be the result of weak bones. It is commonly seen in older patients whose bones have become weakened by osteoporosis.

In some cases a broken humerus 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.

What are the symptoms of a distal humerus fracture?

  • Pain
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Tenderness to the touch
  • Stiffness
  • Instability in the joint

Parent's guide to at-home treatment

What is the treatment for a fractured humerus?

Nonsurgical treatment

  • Splint, cast or sling to hold the elbow in place during healing
  • Frequent X-rays to make sure the bone has not shifted out of place
  • A sling is typically worn for two to six weeks
  • If the bones begin to shift, surgery may be required


Surgical treatment

  • If the fracture is an open fracture, surgery will be scheduled as soon as possible
  • The type of distal humerus fracture surgery will be dependant on the severity of the injury


Distal humerus fracture recovery time will vary from person to person. Whether you have surgery or not, your doctor or a physical therapist will provide you with rehabilitation exercises to help:

  • Improve range of motion
  • Decrease stiffness
  • Strengthen the muscles within the elbow

Distal humerus fracture recovery requires an extensive amount of physical therapy. You won’t be allowed to lift, push or pull anything with your injured arm for a certain amount of time and your physician will discuss specific restrictions that are personalized to your injury.

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

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