Patient Education

To help you understand and navigate through your orthopedic health decisions, we have created a patient education section. Please select from one of the categories below to learn more about your condition or procedure.
Elbow Fractures in Children

Elbow fractures are common injuries in children, accounting for around 10% of all childhood fractures. They involve a break in one or more of the bones that make up the elbow joint – the humerus (upper arm bone), radius, and ulna (forearm bones). The elbow is a complex joint with an intricate network of nerves, blood vessels, ligaments, and growth plates in children, making these fractures potentially complicated.

Common Symptoms

  • Sudden, intense pain in the elbow and forearm
  • Swelling around the elbow
  • Bruising and discoloration
  • Inability or reluctance to move the arm
  • Deformity or misalignment of the elbow
  • Numbness in the hand (potential nerve injury)

Cause & Anatomy

Elbow fractures in children commonly occur due to:

  • Falls on an outstretched arm or directly on the elbow
  • Direct blows or trauma to the elbow region
  • Sports injuries or accidents during play/activities

The elbow joint contains multiple growth plates (areas of cartilage) in children, which can be affected by fractures and complicate diagnosis and treatment.

Diagnosis

  • Physical examination to assess pain, swelling, deformity, range of motion, and neurovascular status
  • X-rays to visualize the fracture type, displacement, and alignment
  • Comparison X-rays of the opposite arm may be needed for comparison
  • MRI or CT scans in some cases to better visualize cartilage

Prevention

  • Encourage safe play and sports practices
  • Ensure proper supervision during activities
  • Use protective gear (elbow pads/guards) for high-impact sports

Treatment

Treatment depends on the fracture type, displacement, and the child’s age/overall health.

Nonsurgical Treatment:

  • Casting or splinting to immobilize stable, non-displaced fractures
  • Closed reduction (manipulation) under anesthesia to realign bones before casting

Surgical Treatment:

  • Closed reduction and percutaneous pinning (inserting pins through the skin) for displaced fractures
  • Open reduction and internal fixation (surgery) for open fractures, irreducible fractures, or those with neurovascular injuries

Surgery

Surgical treatment may be required for:

  • Displaced fractures that cannot be properly realigned without surgery
  • Open (compound) fractures where the bone protrudes through the skin
  • Fractures accompanied by nerve or vascular (blood vessel) injuries
  • Common surgical procedures include:
  • Closed reduction and percutaneous pinning
  • Open reduction and internal fixation with plates, screws, or wires

Rehabilitation

After treatment, rehabilitation may involve:

  • Immobilization with a cast or splint for 3-6 weeks
  • Physical therapy to restore range of motion and strength once healing begins
  • Gradual return to activities and sports under professional guidance

FAQ’s

How long does it take for a child’s elbow fracture to heal?
Most children remain in a cast for 3-4 weeks following treatment. Healing typically takes 6-8 weeks, but can vary based on the fracture severity and the child’s age

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