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.
Growth Plate Fractures

Growth plate fractures are breaks that occur in the growth plates of children and adolescents. Growth plates, also known as epiphyseal plates, are areas of developing cartilage tissue near the ends of long bones, and they are responsible for bone growth. Because these plates are softer and weaker than the surrounding bone, they are more susceptible to injury.

Common Symptoms

  • Pain and tenderness around the affected area
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Difficulty moving the affected limb or bearing weight
  • Visible deformity or misalignment
  • Warmth around the injury site

Cause & Anatomy

  • Trauma: Falls, sports injuries, or accidents are the most common causes.
  • Overuse: Repetitive stress from activities such as running, gymnastics, or pitching in baseball.
  • Medical conditions: Certain conditions, such as osteomyelitis or bone cysts, can weaken growth plates and make them more susceptible to fractures.

Anatomy

  • Growth plates: Located at the ends of long bones in children and adolescents. They allow for bone lengthening and growth until they close and ossify during late adolescence.
  • Epiphysis: The end part of a long bone, initially growing separately from the shaft.
  • Metaphysis: The narrow portion of a long bone between the epiphysis and the diaphysis.

Diagnosis

  • Physical examination: Assessing pain, swelling, deformity, and range of motion.
  • Imaging tests: X-rays are the primary tool for diagnosing growth plate fractures. Sometimes, MRI or CT scans are needed for a more detailed view, especially if the fracture is not easily visible on an X-ray.

Types of Growth Plate Fractures (Salter-Harris Classification):

  • Type I: The fracture extends through the growth plate.
  • Type II: The fracture involves the growth plate and the metaphysis.
  • Type III: The fracture involves the growth plate and the epiphysis.
  • Type IV: The fracture extends through the growth plate, metaphysis, and epiphysis.
  • Type V: A compression injury to the growth plate.

Prevention

  • Protective gear: Using appropriate equipment during sports and physical activities to reduce the risk of injury.
  • Safe playing techniques: Encouraging proper techniques and avoiding overuse injuries by adhering to recommended guidelines for youth sports.
  • Healthy bone development: Ensuring a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, and regular physical activity to strengthen bones.

Non-Surgical Treatment

  • Rest: Avoiding activities that put stress on the affected limb.
  • Immobilization: Using casts or splints to keep the bone in place and allow it to heal.
  • Pain management: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.

Surgery

  • Indications for surgery: Displaced fractures, fractures that cannot be aligned properly with casting, or fractures involving the joint surface.
  • Procedures: Open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) may be necessary to realign the bones and secure them with screws or plates.

Rehabilitation

  • Physical therapy: Exercises to restore strength, flexibility, and range of motion. This usually begins after the cast is removed or the surgical site has healed.
  • Gradual return to activity: Slowly reintroducing activities and sports under medical supervision.
  • Complications
  • Growth disturbances: The most significant risk is that the fracture could lead to uneven growth or premature closure of the growth plate, resulting in limb length discrepancies or angular deformities.
  • Non-union or malunion: The bone may not heal properly or may heal in an incorrect position.
  • Joint stiffness: Reduced mobility in the affected limb due to immobilization or scar tissue formation.

FAQ’s

How long does it take for a growth plate fracture to heal?
Healing time varies depending on the type and severity of the fracture, but most growth plate fractures heal within 4 to 6 weeks with proper treatment.

Can growth plate fractures affect future bone growth?
Yes, growth plate fractures can potentially affect future bone growth, especially if they are severe or not properly treated. Follow-up care is crucial to monitor for any growth disturbances.

Are growth plate fractures more serious than other types of fractures?
Growth plate fractures can be more serious due to the potential impact on bone growth. However, with prompt and appropriate treatment, most children recover fully without long-term issues.

Can growth plate fractures be prevented?
While not all growth plate fractures can be prevented, using protective gear, promoting safe playing techniques, and ensuring overall bone health can reduce the risk.

When should I seek medical attention for a suspected growth plate fracture?
Seek medical attention immediately if your child experiences severe pain, swelling, deformity, or difficulty moving a limb following an

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