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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Treatment

Fractures of the humerus
The vast majority of humerus fractures are treated without surgery. The arm can heal after it is immobilized in a cast, a special splint or a functional brace.

Surgery may be needed for a more severe fracture, or any open fracture with exposed bone. The humerus will be repaired with plates and screws, or a metal rod. If you have an open fracture you will be given antibiotics intravenously (into a vein). Antibiotics help prevent infection in the exposed bone or nearby tissues.

Once your fractured humerus starts to heal, you will need physical therapy. Physical therapy helps to restore normal strength in your arm muscles. It also restores normal range of motion in your elbow and shoulder. A course of physical therapy for a fractured humerus usually takes several months.

Fractures of the forearm
It is common for the fragile bones in the forearm to be separated from each other during a fracture. Forearm motion is very important. As a result, only the mildest fractures including those that are nondisplaced - are treated without surgery. A typical treatment for a nondisplaced forearm fracture includes wearing a cast for six weeks.

A more severe forearm fracture, or an open fracture with exposed bone, will be repaired surgically. Metal plates and screws may be used. If you have an open fracture you will be given antibiotics intravenously to prevent infection.

Your doctor may prescribe physical therapy to help restore your arm's strength and mobility. For children with mild fractures, a few simple arm exercises may be enough to return the injured arm to normal. These exercises usually can be done at home. A cast is usually not required after forearm surgery.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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