doctor Find a doctor
OR

Distal Humerus Fracture Diagnosis

Orthopedic Surgery

How is a distal humerus fracture diagnosed?

Most patients with distal humerus fractures will go to an urgent care center or emergency room.

Your doctor will talk with you about your medical history and general health and ask about your symptoms. He or she will then examine your elbow to determine the extent of the injury. During the exam, your doctor will:

  • Check your skin for cuts and lacerations. In severe fractures, bone fragments can break through the skin, increasing the risk of infection.
  • Palpate (feel) all around your elbow to determine if there are any other areas of tenderness. This could indicate other broken bones or injuries, such as a dislocated elbow.
  • Check your pulse at the wrist to ensure that there is good blood flow to your hand and fingers.
  • Check to see that you can move your fingers and wrist, and can feel things with your fingers. In some cases, the ulnar nerve may be injured at the same time the fracture occurs. This can result in weakness and numbness in the ring and small fingers. Although you may have pain only at the elbow, your doctor may also examine your shoulder, upper arm, forearm, wrist, and hand to ensure that you do not have any other injuries.

X-ray

Distal Humerus Fracture X-Ray

(Left) X-ray of a healthy elbow. (Right) This x-ray shows a distal humerus fracture that is severely out of place (displaced).

X-rays provide images of your bones. Your doctor will order x-rays of your elbow to help diagnose your fracture. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may also order x-rays of your upper arm, forearm, shoulder, wrist, and/or hand to ensure that you do not have any other injuries.