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Broken Elbow (cont.)

When to Seek Medical Care for a Broken Elbow

An elbow fracture carries the risk of potentially serious and disabling complications. If a person thinks the elbow may be fractured, seek medical attention at a hospital's emergency department immediately.

If a person has only mild swelling, and no bruising, open wounds, or loss of feeling; they may consider calling a doctor prior to seeking emergency medical attention.

If an elbow shows any of the following problems after an injury to the arm, go to an emergency department if:

  • Swelling occurs at or near the elbow
  • Any deformity of the elbow or the areas near the elbow.
  • The injured elbow has a new lump or bump, go to the emergency department. Compare the injured elbow to the uninjured one.
  • Grinding, popping, or clicking is heard or felt during elbow, wrist, or hand movement
  • The elbow "catches" at the joint. Normal elbow motion becomes limited.
  • Discoloration of the elbow or areas near the elbow occurs. A bluish, purplish, or blackish color may indicate bleeding into, or near, the elbow. A reddish color may be a sign of infection.
  • Any numbness or tingling is noticed in any part of the arm, for instance, a "funny bone" feeling that doesn't go away
  • The forearm, wrist, or fingers feels "dead" and difficult or impossible to move normally.
  • Significant pain in the elbow, forearm, wrist, or hand.
  • The wrist, forearm or hand becomes pale, cool, or bluish color that may indicate a blockage of blood flow in the injured elbow.
  • Bleeding around the elbow area.
  • A person cannot easily perform the following motions without pain:
    • Fully straighten the elbow
    • Fully bend the elbow so that the fingertips touch the shoulder

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