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In January of 2007 I sustained a severe spiral fracture of my right distal humerus. The surgeon did a great job setting my arm with two metal plates and 17 screws.

Post surgery, my recovery went extremely well. Within 1 month I had regained full motion in my arm. So much so that my surgeon thought it was extremely impressive. He asked several associates to see me and without exception they thought I was 5-6 months post surgery.

Despite the seemingly quick recovery, I was very disciplined with my therapy and continued it for 6 months and NEVER did more than I was told. About 1.5 months out, my therapist and I started to notice that the upper arm around where the surgery was performed would swell during my exercises and turn purple. We measured the arm before and after exercise and there was ~30% increase in size across the entire upper arm and 15-20% on the lower arm. Within 30 minutes - 1 hour the arm color returns to normal and the swelling reduces to about a 10% increase around the upper arm.

The symptoms were immediately brought to the attention of my surgeon. Unfortunately he had never seen anything like it and referred me to a vascular specialist. The specialist saw the arm (never in its inflamed state), and performed an ultrasound. His conclusion was that there was no problem and the condition would disappear 6-12 months post surgery. Not satisfied by the diagnoses, I obtained a second and third opinion from other vascular specialists. Both performed ultrasounds and one did a CT-Angio. Again, nothing out of the ordinary was seen. But, NONE of the vascular specialists ever saw the arm inflamed (except in photos) because they said it did not matter.

I am now over 10 months post surgery and continue to have circulatory issues in my arm. Any cardiovascular exercise causes the arm to swell slightly. If I swim or lift weights with the arm, it continues to turn purple and swell to the same degree as it did 1-2 months after surgery.

Has anyone ever heard or seen such a condition? Alternatively, do you have any suggestions on how I should proceed? I find it bizarre that the vascular specialists say it is "normal" and will go away. How can this condition be normal when three orthopedic surgeons, three vascular specialists and countless physical therapists have NEVER observed anything like this?

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I stumbled upon this thread while looking for some hint about the exact same problem that you are describing.
The only difference is that I have't had surgery and this problem started seemingly out of the blue.

I too went from orhopede to vascular specialist and did an ultrasound, all with no conclusions.

Do you experience any pain when the swelling happens? (I don't)

Anyways, can't really give you any advice. But since I'm going throught the motions as well, I'll be sure to update you if anything comes up, and would be happy to hear how you eventually resolve the problem (if and when)
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distalhumerus wrote:

Same problem is happening with me from past 6 years and for surgeons this is normal. I have metal plates in my lower and upper forearm and just 2 months after my surgery I got swelling in my lower forearm but skin color remains normal and I have no pain issues with this swelling. This swelling increase my forearm size to 30 percent whenever I lift weights in gym and after few hours it returns back to the normal size.  ***this post is edited by moderator *** ***
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I had a similar problem, but with the swelling is in the hand. Symptoms are pain in front of shoulder, and "selling" of hand. It changes colour to somewhat more reddish and blue when in use. Certain activities is worse than others. I had a scope surgery for in the shoulder for a Bankart lesion. I haven´t really got any diagnoses as to what this is, but have never been ordered to go a vascular expert. 3 years after surgery now.
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I am about 5 weeks post surgery on left shoulder. My left arm will turn blue and purple if I let it hang while standing. Been like this since the surgery. Surgeon says it will get better. But now it even aches.
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My husband is experiencing the same thing two months after wrist surgery. If he hangs his arm down it turns purple and aches, he has to keep it up at heart level for it not to swell. Surgeon does not seem concerned, not sure what he should do??
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