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Radial & Ulnar Shaft Fractures

The ulna and radius are long bones of the forearm that form the elbow at one end and the wrist at the other. The radius is on the thumb side and the ulna lines up with the little finger, forming a bony protrusion at the elbow. A forceful injury to the forearm fractures both the bones. Fractures to the ulna and radius bones may occur in high speed accidents, falling on a hard surface, during sports activities or receiving a sharp blow.

Intense pain is usually present at the time of injury, which later reduces to an ache. Pain increases when touching the fracture site and with certain movements. Other symptoms include swelling, bruising, tingling sensation and numbness. The fractured bones may be dislocated and the skin intact (closed fracture) or ruptured (open fracture), exposing the fracture site. This may be accompanied by deformity such as bending or shortening of the forearm.

When you present to the clinic with radial and ulnar shaft fractures, your doctor will review your symptoms, perform a thorough physical examination and order an X-ray to identify the type and severity of the fracture.

Treatment of your fracture involves realigning the broken bones and stabilizing them in the right position until they heal. In cases of closed fractures, your doctor will manually realign the bones under anesthesia and apply a splint or cast. For significantly displaced and open fractures, once swelling has reduced, surgery is needed to align the fracture fragments and stabilize them with screws and plates by using internal or external devices. Antibiotics are administered to control and prevent infection. After surgery, your arm is immobilized in a cast or splint.

Your doctor will order X-rays to monitor healing throughout your treatment. Radial and ulnar shaft fractures typically take three to six months to heal. Once healing is established, the cast or splint is removed and you are encouraged to participate in a physical therapy program to prevent stiffness, strengthen the muscles and improve range of movement.

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