At the Hand and Microsurgery Medical Group, we receive a number of forearm fracture cases. Have you ever wondered what exactly a forearm fracture is? Have you ever thought that maybe something was broken after a harsh fall or sports injury? Well, if you have, you’ve come to the right place, we can help.
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Anatomy of the forearm
Your forearm consists of two primary bones, the ulna and the radius. When one or both of these bones get broken, it is said to be a forearm fracture. Fractures at the forearm occur in mainly three areas – the wrist, which is the distal end of the bone, in the middle, and near the elbow, which is called the proximal end of the forearm.
For general purposes, we will discuss the topic from the perspective of fractures that occur in the middle of the forearm (middle of the ulna and radius).
When the arms are held at one’s side with one’s palms facing forward, the ulna can be identified as the bone located closest to the body and the radius can be identified as the one closest to the thumb.The ulna is larger near the elbow and the radius is larger near the wrist.
The forearm’s primary motion is rotation, which is the motion of turning the palms up or down. When this happens, the ulna actually stays in the same position, while radius rotates around it. The motion we are describing here is the same motion used to turn a screwdriver or twist a light bulb into its socket.
How a fracture can affect you
A fracture interferes with this natural motion of the forearm. Apart from that, it can inhibit bending or straightening of the forearms or cause immense pain.
There are several ways in which the forearm bones can get fractured. The fracture can be a light crack or there can be fractures at multiple points, causing the bones to break into various pieces. The broken pieces can even end up moving out of their original place.
In certain cases, the fracture will occur in such a manner that the broken bone fragments will cut through the skin and stick out. This type of fracture is known as an open fracture or compound fracture and requires instant medical attention due to the increased risk of infection.
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The forearm bones are quite strong and a substantial amount of force is required to break them, especially in the middle. This is why most fractures occur as the result of significant force and impact on the bones.
The fracture of the ulna and the radius together is very common. However, in the case of a single bone fracture, it is usually the ulna. This typically occurs when the forearm has been subject to some sort of direct force. For instance, raising the arm in self-defense from impact can cause a forearm fracture.
Because of the strong force required to break the radius or ulna in the middle of the bone, it is more common for adults to break both bones during a forearm injury. When only one bone in the forearm is broken, it is typically the ulna — usually as a result of a direct blow to the outside of your arm when you have it raised in self-defense.
Apart from direct blows to the forearm, falling on an outstretched arm can also cause a fracture. This usually happens during sports or when a person falls from a height. Automotive accidents can also cause forearm fractures.
There are definite symptoms to be aware of if you believe you may have sustained a forearm fracture. The first and most obvious symptom is immense pain. It is said that fracture pain is one of the most intense forms of pain a person can experience. Apart from pain, a fracture of both the arms may also cause deformities. You will begin to notice that the forearm is shorter or appears bent. You may even experience the need to support your fractured arm with your other hand.
However, these symptoms occur usually in the case of cracks, rather than open or compound fractures. Cracks tend to be less painful, which the person may ignore over a period of time and pave the way for the development of deformities.
In the case of severe fractures, the pain alone will force the patient to seek immediate medical attention. Other general symptoms include an inability to rotate the forearm, numbness, weakness, swelling etc.
Treatment at Hand & Microsurgery Medical Group
Dr. Joshua Gordon and Dr. Leonard Gordon suggest the standard treatment for forearm fractures or fractures, which involves placing the broken pieces back into their original position and preventing those pieces from moving until they are fully healed. In the case of the radius and ulna, proper stabilization is important since they are interdependent bones.
Inaccurate alignment can result in future complications, especially with regard to movement.
Most cases of forearm fracture in adults are treated with surgery in order to ensure that the bones are placed appropriately and stabilized. However, before the surgery itself, your surgeon or doctor will offer immediate treatment by realigning the bones. The process is known as reduction.
This is not a surgical procedure. Rather, it is done to move the broken pieces into place before surgery. During this time, a splint will be applied, along with a sling to maintain a fixed position. A splint allows for fastening and loosening, which aids to regulate swelling.
Now, a cast or a splint will suffice in the case of a crack, where the fracture doesn’t result in the broken piece being out of alignment. You will be monitored during this period to see if there is a shift in the position of the fracture. If there is, surgery is the next step. Surgery is a must if the fractured pieces have moved from their original position. For instance, an open fracture. There are multiple options when it comes to the surgical treatment of forearm fractures.
You have the open reduction and internal fixation approach with screws and plates, which is the most common type of forearm fracture surgery. Then, you have the open reduction and internal fixation approach with rods.
Finally, we have the external fixation approach, which is carried out in the case of severe skin and bone damage. Depending on the severity of your case, Dr. Joshua Gordonand Dr. Leonard Godon may suggest any of the above-mentioned approaches. They are orthopedic experts based in San Francisco, California who possess immense knowledge and experience in dealing with such conditions.
Both doctors also believe in an empathetic approach, which means your needs as a patient are prioritized. Special care and attention come standard at the Hand and Microsurgery Medical Group.