Definition

The humerus is the long bone in the upper arm. A humeral shaft fracture is a fracture of the long, narrow part of the bone.

Causes

These fractures are caused by trauma to the bone from:

  • A motor vehicle crash
  • A twisting injury
  • Falling onto an outstretched hand
  • A blow to the bone

Risk Factors

Factors that may raise the risk of this type of fracture are:

  • Playing high-impact sports
  • Problems during childbirth (fracture in infant)

Symptoms

Symptoms may be:

  • Bruising
  • Swelling
  • Problems moving the arm
  • Pain that may be worse when moving the arm
  • Changes in how the arm looks
  • Change in feeling in the arm

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms, health history, and how the injury happened. An exam will be done. It will focus on your arm.

Images will be taken of the arm to look for the fracture. This can be done with:

The Bones of the Body

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Most fractures of this type heal without surgery.

A cast, splint, or brace will be used to help the bone stay in line while they heal.

Surgery

More severe fractures may need surgery to realign the broken pieces. Screws, plates, or wires may be used to hold the fracture in place.

Prevention

To lower the chance of this type of fracture:

  • Wear safety equipment when playing sports or doing activities.
  • Always wear a seat belt when driving or riding in a motor vehicle.
  • Do not do things that may cause a fall.
RESOURCES:

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
http://www.familydoctor.org

Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
http://www.orthoinfo.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
http://www.canorth.org

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

REFERENCES:

Humeral shaft fracture. Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America website. Available at: https://posna.org/Physician-Education/Study-Guide/Humeral-Shaft-Fractures. Accessed June 19, 2019.

Humeral shaft fracture—emergency management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T902926/Humeral-shaft-fracture-emergency-management. Accessed June 19, 2019.

Spiguel A, Steffner R. Humeral shaft fractures. Curr Rev Musculoskeletal Med. 2012 Sep;5(3):177-183. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3535078. Accessed June 19, 2019.

Updegrove GF, Mourad W, et al. Humeral shaft fractures. J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2018 Apr;27(4):e87-e97.

Last reviewed June 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review BoardWarren A. Bodine, DO, CAQSM  Last Updated: 4/21/2020