How to Diagnose a Broken Elbow

The elbow joint is formed by the humerus, radius and ulna. An elbow fracture involves one or more of these bones. A child's broken elbow can affect future bone development if the fracture occurs along one of the bone growth centers.

A broken elbow will impede the normal movements of bending, straightening and rotating the lower arm using ligaments, muscles and tendons.

Look for signs of a broken elbow immediately following the injury. The elbow or area surrounding it may be swollen or deformed. Discoloration such as bruising or redness may be visible.

Check the movements of your elbow. A person with a broken elbow may have difficulty in moving it through its complete range of motion. You should be able touch your shoulder with your fingertips and fully straighten your arm.

Test the rotation of your elbow. Hold your arm at your side and bend your elbow at a right angle. You should be able to rotate your hand outward until the palm faces the ceiling. Make sure you can also rotate your hand inward until your palm faces the floor while in the same position.

Feel numbness in your hand, fingers or forearm. An injury to your elbow also may damage major nerves such as the median, radial and ulnar nerves.

Detect a cool sensation on or near the elbow. This can be caused by injury or compression of major blood vessels because of swelling or trauma.