Humerus fracture: Is splinting required?

10 November 2016
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10 November 2016, Comments: 0

A humerus fracture can be caused by trauma such as falls, vehicular accidents or gunshot wounds. The humerus is an elongated bone positioned in amidst the elbow and the shoulder joint in the forearm.

Most cases of fractures are considered as closed injuries in which there is no break in the skin over the site. Once the skin is broken, it is called as an open fracture. The treatment for a humerus fracture are usually conventional, but some might require surgery to improve the outcome.

When is splinting required for a humerus fracture?

Most of the fractures involving the humeral shaft are managed with an initial coaptation splint following by either a functional brace or hanging arm cast.

Surgery is usually indicated in cases involving damage to the vessels, severe soft tissue damage, open fracture, pathologic fracture or significant displacement of the bone fragments.

What is a coaptation splint?

Humerus fracture

Most cases of fractures are considered as closed injuries in which there is no break in the skin over the site.

A coaptation splint is described as a “U-shaped” splint positioned under the armpit, wrapped around the elbow and ends at the top part of the shoulder. The whole length of the humerus is covered in the splint.

This splint is usually padded heavily and used for 7-10 days until a definitive treatment is carried out such as with a cast, functional brace or surgery. An individual with a humerus fracture should use the sling for added comfort after the coaptation splint is applied.


Functional bracing is applied 7-10 days after a fracture to the humeral shaft occurred, but can also be an initial mode of treatment. Both the functional brace and a hanging cast are non-surgical measures in managing fractures involving the humeral shaft. The tightness on the brace can be adjusted to improve the alignment of the bone fragments. A functional brace allows some movement at the site of the fracture during healing.

What are the possible consequences?

The potential consequences that can occur if a humeral fracture is managed non-surgically includes malunion, nonunion, infection and non-resolution of radial nerve palsy.

More Information / Disclaimer

The information posted on this page on a humerus fracture is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage fractures including a humerus fracture by taking a standard first aid course with Toronto First Aid.

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