What to do when I have an upper extremity fracture?

Immediately after an injury to your arm and you think you may have a fracture, try to elevate the extremity if possible. For a wrist injury, elevate the wrist above the elbow to keep swelling to a minimum. Try to remove rings or any constrictive jewelry before the swelling prevents removal and requires the ring to be cut off.

Apply ice intermittently to the area of swelling. Use a splint or make shift sling to support the extremity. If the skin is lacerated at the site of the potential fracture it is important to rapidly seek medical treatment (ER, Urgent care, doctor's office) as an open fracture requires prompt attention to avoid infection. If in doubt about possibly having a fracture anywhere in the arm, it is better to seek attention sooner rather than later as often times fractures become more difficult to treat with time.

Depending on the location and type of fracture, treatment may consist of splinting, casting, or surgery. If a fracture is not displaced, it will often be treated with immobilization until the fracture heals. It is important to follow directions with regards to whether or not a splint can be safely removed at times.

Sometimes fractures can displace with time and may then require surgery. Xrays will frequently be taken again 1-2 weeks after the injury to confirm the fracture alignment is satisfactory. Upper extremity fracture healing times will vary from approximately 4-8 weeks.