How is an Elbow Fracture Diagnosed?


To diagnose an elbow fracture, a doctor or orthopedist will perform an examination, feeling around the elbow and inquiring about the circumstances of the injury. They will check your range of motion and for broken skin.

To confirm that the elbow is fractured and determine its severity, your doctor may order one or more of the following imaging tests:

  • X-rays can reveal the location and extent of the fracture
  • CT scans can provide a more detailed image of the elbow from various angles
  • MRIs are used to produce a more precise look at the elbow fracture and surrounding tissue

How is an Elbow Fracture Treated?


Fractured elbow treatments depend on the severity of the fracture. Treatment for a minor injury generally involves wearing an elbow fracture splint or cast, but more extreme cases may require surgery.

Nonsurgical options

If you have a non-displaced elbow fracture (the bone is broken but hasn’t moved out of place), the injury can be treated with more conservative methods, including:

  • Ice
  • Elevation of the elbow to decrease swelling
  • An arm sling, wrap, splint, or cast to immobilize the area and promote healing
  • Anti-inflammatory/pain medication such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen
  • Physical therapy and range of motion exercises

Most adults with elbow fractures will be in a splint or cast for three to six months, returning to normal activities after four months. But it can take some people a year or more to fully heal.

An elbow fracture treatment for a child typically involves wearing a splint or cast to immobilize the bone, reduce pain, and encourage healing. The cast or splint is usually worn for four weeks.

Surgical options

If the bone involved in the fracture is displaced (separated and moved out of place) or if the bone doesn’t heal properly, surgery for a broken elbow may be required. An orthopedic surgeon will move the bones back in place and secure them with screws, pins, and plates.

Recovery from elbow fracture surgery can take up to a year to heal completely. Your doctor may strongly recommend daily physical therapy exercises for the best results.


For adults, a fractured elbow in a cast or splint can take up to three to six months to heal. Complete healing can take up to a year, depending on the severity of the fracture and if surgery was involved.

Symptoms of a fractured elbow usually include pain, swelling, and difficulty straightening the elbow.

If you think you have fractured your elbow, seek medical attention as soon as possible. There’s a risk of permanent damage if the fracture isn’t properly treated.

Not all fractured elbows show clear signs of disfigurement, but many elbow fractures cause pain, swelling, and bruising at the injury site. Mild cases may have milder symptoms.

Get Care

Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Elbow Fracture Treatment

If you are exhibiting symptoms of a fractured elbow, it’s essential to seek immediate medical help. The doctors and orthopedic specialists at NewYork-Presbyterian and Columbia Orthopedics can provide a diagnosis, nonsurgical treatments, and the best in orthopedic surgery.

For high-quality orthopedic services, make an appointment with NewYork-Presbyterian today.