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Humeral shaft fractures

Patient information A-Z

What is a humeral shaft fracture?

You have fractured the middle part of your upper arm. These fractures occur away from the shoulder and elbow joints and can involve injury to one of the nerves in the arm, called the radial nerve. This nerve wraps around the upper arm and travels down to the hand. Injury to this nerve can cause an altered sensation over the back of the hand and some weakness to some of the muscles of the hand and wrist, which results in being unable to pick things up or carry things in the affected hand.

The damage to this nerve is usually temporary and complete recovery of the nerve happens within 3 to 4 months for 90% of patients.

X-ray showing humeral shaft fracture

You will have been placed into a brace like the one shown below to help the fracture to heal. This can take several months.

At first, you will require help from others in applying the brace and for hygiene purposes.

Swelling and bruising at the fracture site is normal. Simple, over-the-counter pain killers will help to reduce swelling and pain. You may find sleeping upright for the first few weeks more comfortable.

You may also feel that your arm is floating, which is a common feeling.

Humeral shaft fracture brace on a person

You should:

  • keep your wrist and fingers moving to prevent stiffness
  • use your collar and cuff to hold your arm in a comfortable position

You should not:

  • put pillows under your elbow
  • remove the brace for any reason
  • drive whilst wearing the brace
  • miss your appointment with the shoulder specialist

At your appointment the upper arm will be x-rayed again in order to check the position of the fracture.

The shoulder specialist will then discuss further options for managing your injury at this appointment.

If you have any problems with your brace you should contact the clinic. These problems include:

  • pinching of the skin or the arm swelling (brace too tight)
  • the brace slipping down the arm
  • skin irritation/rash

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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Contact us

Cambridge University Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust
Hills Road, Cambridge

Telephone +44 (0)1223 245151