Elbow Injury: Metal Plate Visible

How long would you wait to see a health care professional about your elbow?  Imagine an Elbow Injury: Metal Plate.

The answer is likely – depending on the injury. A recent fall, extensive Bleeding, elbow fracture and other injuries might convince you to see someone sooner than later.

Our next story – is that of an elbow injury. In fact, this is the second injury.

First Injury

Our story starts several weeks previously when while skateboarding, the patient fell and injured his elbow. It took several days for him to realize something was seriously wrong. He was having trouble extending his arm completely. That can be an obvious sign of an elbow injury and even Elbow Fracture.

When he did get to the emergency room, they did an X-ray and realized the severity of the injury would require surgery. A plate and some screws were inserted into the elbow. It took another several weeks for the healing process to be complete. Afterwards, physical therapy was required. From my knowledge, it healed quite well.

Second Injury

This is where the story becomes interesting. Some weeks later, patient was drinking and doing drugs. There was ice on the ground. One night, after partying, he was walking to his car, and slipped on the ice and fell. Of course, he hit his elbow. The pain was intense and it started bleeding everywhere. He covered it with some bandages and drove home. It bled on and off for the next two days.

About 2-3 weeks later, he was required to get a physical. I think it might have been for a new job. He was asked if he had any medical issues or complaints. He said, “No.”

When the physical exam was done – when it came to the elbow – there was some obvious concerns. When asked, the patient had recounted the story of falling but never took the time to look at his elbow. He had felt that it would heal on its own and that it wasn’t a problem.  But that was far from the truth of things.

Risk Factors

When you have an open wound, you are at increased risk of an infection. The longer the area is open, the more the risk.

When you have an injury and can see the Bone – antibiotic and surgical eval are almost always necessary.

With a previous injury and a plate placed on the bone – follow up with a new injury is important.

Infection can occur in the skin, the surrounding tissue, and even in the bone. In this case, with the exposed metal and bones, infection had occurred inside the bone around the metal plate.


In this cause, surgery to remove the plate and screws was required. At that point, they had to fix the bone and the re-fracture that occurred. A new plate and screws were required.  The wound was then closed and dressed daily.

IV antibiotics were required for more than 6 weeks to treat the infection in the bone. It was a long and difficult process for this patient.

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