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Common causes of upper extremity fractures

Fractures to the upper extremities affect many people every year. Healthcare facilities are therefore likely to see patients with upper extremity fractures on a regular basis. As such, it is of the utmost importance that clinicians have access to the right trauma implants and prostheses, should they be need to treat these injuries. This enables treatment to be provided for fractures, which can vary drastically in nature, both in terms of severity and the area affected.

Below we break down the common causes of upper extremity fractures, along with the people most likely to be affected by the injury and how they can recognise their symptoms.


What areas are included in the upper extremities?

In healthcare, the upper extremity refers to the four main sections that make up the arm – the hand, forearm, upper arm, and shoulder. All these parts work in conjunction with each other to allow a huge range of motion. This includes bending, rotation, and extending. Additionally, due to the density of muscles surrounding this limb, the upper extremity is crucial to completing many daily tasks and recreational activities.

There are 30 total bones in the arm, along with many nerve endings, blood vessels, cartilage, and muscles. Fractures to the bones of the upper extremity can not only compromise limb functionality, but also cause further damage to surrounding soft tissues. This can have negative consequences for patients, such as ongoing loss of movement, joint instability, and the early onset of arthritis. Our suppliers offer a range of products which enable surgeons to provide the best quality of care to their patients. The Distal Elbow Set from Skeletal Dynamics for instance, contains five different specialised systems designed for use on a variety of upper extremity bone fractures.


Types of upper extremity fracture

There are a massive range of potential fractures that can occur in the upper extremity. This is because every bone in the arm can experience a fracture, which each come with potential side effects depending on the surrounding tissue, and the functionality of the affected bone. For instance, a thumb fracture would impact a patient’s ability grip things, whereas a radial head fracture is likely to impact their ability to bend the arm at the elbow.

Fractures can also differ based on how the bone breaks, what impact it has, and the displacement of the fracture. These types include:

  • Intra-articular fracture – the break extends from the surface of the bone into the joint.
  • Segmental fracture – the bone fractures in two places, leaving a section of bone unattached.
  • Buckle fracture – an incomplete fracture commonly affecting the radius and ulna bones in children. It can cause the wrist joint to be impeded.
  • Displaced fracture – breaks in the bone causes it to become bent.
  • Non-displaced fracture – the bone breaks but does not cause it to change its orientation.
  • Comminuted fracture – the bone breaks in at least three separate places, with a high risk of fragments being present at the site of the fracture.
  • Transverse fracture – a straight line fracture that goes across the bone.
  • Compression fracture – the bone is subject to crushing forces that cause it to deform outward, resulting in a wider appearance.
  • Open fracture – the bone has broken completely, with one or both of the free ends breaking through the skin.


What are the causes of upper extremity fractures?

Upper extremity fractures are most often caused by high trauma events that cause significant force to be exerted on the body. Typically, the greater the force involved in the event, the greater the severity of the fracture that results. For example, a high speed traffic collision is likely to result in a complex comminuted fracture, or a fracture that’s accompanied by dislocation of the affected joint. A recent clinical study demonstrates how developments in 3-D technology is improving pre-surgical planning for upper extremity fractures.

Minor and middling severity upper extremity fractures are often caused by someone having an uncontrolled fall onto an outstretched hand. The sudden force travels up the length of the arm, placing additional strain on joints at the wrist, elbow, and/or shoulder. When the bone cannot withstand the pressure, a fracture can occur. Bones that are twisted at the time of the impact are more susceptible to fracturing. Upper extremity fractures can also be caused by stress placed on bones from overuse. This is common in athletes who are required to complete repetitive arm movements, or those involved in contact sports. Plating systems designed to treat fractures to a specific bodily area, such as the Initial C™ Kits from Newclip Technics, have been proven to improve the rate of bone union through internal fixation.

Patients suffering from an upper extremity fracture are likely to experience the following symptoms:

  • Stiffness and difficulty of movement in the affected area. If the fracture is positioned at the site of a joint, this can prevent it from being fully extended.
  • Pain and swelling at the site of the fracture.
  • Loss of strength accompanied by numbness.
  • Pain when twisting the arm.


Modern solutions for upper extremity fractures

LEDA Orthopaedics is proud to be able to support surgeons by providing a range of treatment options for upper extremity fractures. Our knowledge allows us to select suppliers based on the link between trauma and orthopaedics that leads to a modern solution. We work with suppliers of internal fixation devices, external stabilisation solutions, bone replacement implants, and more. We’re one of the UK’s top distributors of medical devices with a focus on innovation and patient/practitioner experience. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about product specifications, instructions for use, or another query.