Upper Limb Fractures and Trauma

Clavicle fracture

What is a clavicle fracture?

A clavicle fracture is a broken collarbone. Your collarbone (or clavicle) connects your shoulder to your sternum. This bone is commonly broken in contact sports (eg football, martial arts), during falls (eg horse riding falls, cycling) and during impact injuries (eg car or motorbike accidents).

Fracture of the collarbone is usually due to a fall onto the shoulder.

What are the symptoms of clavicle fracture?

Symptoms of collarbone fracture include:

  • pain and swelling over the collarbone – there may be a bump at the site of the break
  • bruising around the shoulder and collarbone
  • pain and a grinding sensation if you try to move your shoulder
  • a forward and downward displacement of your shoulder
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What does your doctor look for?

Your doctor will take a brief history and perform a physical examination of your shoulder.

What investigations are needed?

The most common investigation is an X-ray. Occasionally, your doctor may order at CT scan.

How is a clavicle fracture treated?

Most clavicle fractures heal with conservative (ie non-surgical) therapy. Conservative therapy typically involves wearing a sling to immobilise the broken bone and pain medication. After a while, your doctor will show you how to do some gentle exercises to prevent stiffness and weakness.

If the broken bones are displaced, you may need surgery to realign the bones and stabilise them with pins or screws and plates.

Our specialists at Orthopaedic Clinics Gold Coast will work with you to create the best treatment plan for your particular situation.

Shoulder Trauma

What is shoulder trauma?

Shoulder trauma includes a range of injuries including:

  • shoulder dislocation
  • rotator cuff tears
  • fractures
  • sprains and strains

Shoulder trauma may be due to falling onto the shoulder, a direct blow to the shoulder, and overuse or repetitive movements. Overuse injuries are common in swimmers, tennis players and weight lifters.

What are the symptoms of shoulder trauma?

Your symptoms will depend on the type of shoulder injury you have. Common symptoms are:

  • pain in the shoulder
  • stiffness and restriction of movement of your shoulder
  • difficulty performing activities that require you to lift your arms above your head
  • a popping sensation in your shoulder
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What does your doctor look for?

Your doctor will ask you questions about your how your injury occurred and about your symptoms, as well as taking a general medical history. Your doctor will perform a physical examination that includes assessing your shoulder looking for pain, swelling and at your range of motion.

What investigations are needed?

Depending on the nature of your shoulder trauma, your doctor may order X-rays, an ultrasound and/or a CT orMRI scan.

How is shoulder trauma treated?

Treatment will depend on the type of injury you have sustained.Our specialists at Orthopaedic Clinics Gold Coast will work with you to create the best treatment plan for your particular situation.

Scapula fracture

What is a scapula fracture?

A scapula fracture is break in the shoulder blade bone. Breaking your shoulder blade requires a lot force and is usually only seen with events such as from a high fall or high speed car/motor bike accident.

What are the symptoms of a scapula fracture?

Symptoms of a scapula fracture are:

  • a cracking or popping sound when the injury occurs
  • severe pain immediately after the injury
  • swelling and bruising soon after the injury
  • inability to move your shoulder or arm
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What does your doctor look for?

Your doctor will ask you about the how your injury happened and your symptoms. You’ll also be asked about your general medical history and have a physical examination.

Because of the number of strong muscles around the shoulder blade the broken bones tend not to be displaced and as such the fracture may not be able to be felt.

What investigations are needed?

Depending on the nature of your injury, your doctor may order X-rays, a CT scan and/or an MRI scan.

How are scapula fractures treated?

Most scapula fractures can be treated conservatively. This typically involves a sling to immobilise the bones and pain medications. The sling will usually be worn for 4–6 weeks, however to prevent stiffness and weakness your doctor will probably recommend that you start physiotherapy as soon as your pain has reduced.

If your fracture is near to or involves the shoulder joint, or your bones are severely displaced, you may need surgery.

Our specialists at Orthopaedic Clinics Gold Coast will work with you to create the best treatment plan for your particular situation.

Elbow fracture

What is an elbow fracture?

An elbow fracture is a break (or crack) in one or more of the bones in the elbow or elbow joint. The elbow is a complex hinge joint made up of:

  • three bones (humerus, radius and ulna)
  • three joints (radiohumeral, ulnohumeral and proximal radioulnar)
  • multiple muscles and tendons, ligaments, bursae, cartilages, blood vessels and nerves

Fractures can occur at different locations within and around the elbow. Fractures of the elbow may just involve the bones (ie olecranon and condylar fracture) or may involve joint (eg intra-articular fractures).

Elbow fractures are often caused by:

  • falling onto an outstretched arm
  • a direct blow to the arm (eg contact sports)
  • a twisting injury that takes the elbow past its limits

What are the symptoms of an elbow fracture?

The symptoms of elbow fracture are:

  • a popping or cracking sound at the time of the injury
  • pain straight after the injury, especially when trying to straighten the elbow
  • swelling and bruising soon after the injury
  • inability to move the elbow
  • numbness in the forearm, hand or fingers

What does your doctor look for?

Your doctor will ask you about how your injury occurred, about your symptoms and about your general medical history (including pre-existing conditions and previous injuries).

Your doctor will examine your elbow looking for tenderness, swelling, deformity, movement and for signs of blood vessel or nerve damage.

What investigations are needed?

Your doctor will probably order and X-ray of your elbow. If further information is needed, your doctor may request at CT or MRI scan.

How is an elbow fracture treated?

Treatment depends on the location and severity of the fracture, as well as your general health and age, which affect your healing ability.

Some fractures will heal with conservative therapy. This typically involves stabilising the elbow with a cast or splint and pain medications. Healing can take 8–10 weeks, but your doctor will likely recommend physiotherapy earlier in the healing process to prevent stiffness and weakness.

Surgery is usually needed if the bones are displaced or the elbow is generally unstable. During surgery, the bones are realigned and held together with pins or screws and plates.

Our specialists at Orthopaedic Clinics Gold Coast will work with you to create the best treatment plan for your particular situation.

Wrist fracture

What is a wrist fracture?

A wrist fracture is a break in one or more bones of the wrist, which is also called the carpus. The wrist links the forearm to hand and its complexity allows for its wide range of motion. The complex wrist joint ismade up of:

  • 15 bones –two bones in your forearm (the radius and ulna), eight small carpal bones and five hand (or metacarpal bone)
  • multiple large and small joints where the bones meet
  • multiple ligaments to provide stability
  • blood vessels and nerves

Wrist fractures are more common in people with osteoporosis and are typically caused by a fall onto an outstretched arm or a car/motor bike accident.

What are the symptoms of a wrist fracture?

The symptoms of a wrist fracture are:

  • pain
  • swelling and bruising
  • deformity (eg bending at an odd angle or misalignment)
  • inability to move your wrist
  • weakness or numbness of your hand or fingers

Occasionally, a broken bone may poke through the skin. This is called a compound fracture. If only one of the small carpal bones breaks, the symptoms can be more subtle.

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What does your doctor look for?

Your doctor will ask about you about how the injury happened, about your symptoms and take a general medical history (eg pre-existing conditions such as osteoporosis, and previous injuries).

Your doctor will examine your wrist looking for tenderness, swelling, deformity, movement and for signs of blood vessel or nerve damage.

What investigations are needed?

The most common investigation for wrist fracture is an X-ray. If more information is needed, your doctor may order a CT scan or a bone scan.

How is a wrist fracture treated?

Treatment depends on the location and severity of the fracture, as well as your general health and age, which affect your healing ability.

Some fractures will heal with conservative therapy. This typically involves stabilising the wrist with a cast or splint and pain medications. Even while the cast or splint is still on your doctor will likely recommend physiotherapy to prevent stiffness and weakness.

Surgery is usually needed if the bones are displaced or if the wrist is unstable. During surgery, the bones are realigned and held together. The bones may be held together with internal pins or screws and plates, or with external devices that create a stable frame around joint. In most cases, your fingers are free to move and exercises are recommended to preserve strength and mobility. Wrist exercises are also recommended once the area is stable and the pain is controlled.

Our specialists at Orthopaedic Clinics Gold Coast will work with you to create the best treatment plan for your particular situation.

Hand and finger fractures

What are hand and finger fractures?

Hand and finger fractures are breaks in one or more of the 19 bones in each hand. Finger fractures commonly occur from sporting injuries and falls. Getting your fingers caught in machinery is also a common way to cause a fracture. Hand fractures are often due to a direct blow or a fall onto the hand.

As your fingers and hands play such a significant role in so many day-to-day activities, fractures here are considered serious. Prompt specialist treatment is recommended for any hand or finger fracture.

What are the symptoms of hand and finger fractures?

The symptoms of hand and finger fractures include:

  • severe pain immediately after the injury
  • swelling and bruising soon after the injury
  • deformity (eg a finger or part of a finger at an odd angle)
  • inability to move your finger or fingers.

What does your doctor look for?

Your doctor will ask about you about how the injury happened, about your symptoms and take a general medical history (eg pre-existing conditions such as osteoporosis, and previous injuries).

Your doctor will examine your fingers and hand looking for tenderness, swelling, deformity, movement and for signs of blood vessel or nerve damage.

What investigations are needed?

The most common investigation for hand and finger fractures is X-ray.

How are hand and finger fractures treated?

Treatment depends on the location and severity of the fracture, as well as your general health and age, which affect your healing ability.

Some fractures will heal with conservative therapy. This typically involves stabilising the hand/finger with a cast or splint and pain medications. The cast or splint will usually be worn for 4–6 weeks.

Surgery is usually needed if the bones are displaced. During surgery, the bones are realigned and held together. The bones may be held together with internal pins or screws and plates, or with external devices that create a stable frame around bones.

When adequate healing has occurred, your doctor will start rehabilitation, involving exercises to regain strength and mobility.

Our specialists at Orthopaedic Clinics Gold Coast will work with you to create the best treatment plan for your particular situation.