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Fat Pad Sign

Patient information A-Z

What is a Fat Pad Sign?

A fat pad sign occurs when the normal pads of fat surrounding the bones in the elbow becomes raised. This could be due to swelling in that area of the elbow. It can be also caused by damage to the ligaments of the elbow, or sometimes by a small fracture to one of the bones that can’t be seen on an x-ray. The fracture cannot always be seen on x-ray as the fracture is not out of place. This is a common finding on elbow x-rays.

X-ray showing a fat pad sign (Left arm)

Swelling and bruising at the fracture site is normal. Taking simple, over the counter pain killers and applying ice wrapped in a tea towel to the area, will help to reduce swelling and pain. Ice should be applied for 20 minutes three to four times a day.

The elbow will usually be held in a comfortable position using a collar and cuff sling. The time frame for wearing this will be given on assessment.

You should:

  • wear the sling/collar and cuff for the recommended time frame.
  • move your arm within pain limits in the sling/support to prevent stiffness.
  • take simple, over the counter pain killers to keep pain levels under control.

You should not:

  • take part in any physical or contact sports until instructed that it is safe to do so to avoid further injury.
  • miss your clinical appointment if one has been made for you.

These injuries almost always heal well with time and no specific treatment is usually required. If a follow up appointment is needed this will be booked after initial assessment.

Please remember:

Please contact your GP if your condition is not improving, or if your pain relief is not adequate.

If your condition is worsening please contact the Multi professional fracture clinic on 01223 348299 or 01223 257095.

For more information please visit Fracture Info

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Smoking is not allowed anywhere on the hospital campus. For advice and support in quitting, contact your GP or the free NHS stop smoking helpline on 0800 169 0 169.

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Contact us

Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151