In this Article

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of a growth plate injury of the elbow are:

  • Sudden intense pain
  • Swelling
  • Inability to move or straighten the arm normally
  • Numbness in hand or arm
  • Changes in the way the arm bends

When to See a Doctor

See your child’s healthcare provider if your child:

  • Continues to complain of pain after a fall
  • Can’t or won’t move the arm because of pain
  • Limits play time because of a new or old injury
  • Shows changes in the way their arm bends

Causes

The most common causes of growth plate injury are:

  • Falls
  • Sports and recreational or playground activities
  • Overuse (repetitive motion)

Other causes include:

  • Child abuse
  • Radiation treatment
  • Extreme cold (frostbite)
  • Certain medicines
  • Genetic (inherited) disorders
  • Infections
  • Other diseases

Diagnosis and Tests

To figure out if your child has a growth plate injury of the elbow, your child’s healthcare provider will ask questions about the injury and look for signs and symptoms of a growth plate injury, including:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Bruising
  • Color changes in the hand
  • Unnatural bends in the bone
  • Reduced movement

To confirm the diagnosis, your child’s healthcare provider may recommend imaging tests such as:

  • X-rays
  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • Ultrasound

Treatments

The treatment will depend on the type and severity of the injury. Treatment usually includes:

  • Splints or casts to hold the bone in place, even if surgery is not needed
  • Surgery to pin, screw, or wire pieces of bone into place
  • Exercises or physical therapy (after the injury heals)

It takes three to six weeks for most injuries to heal. In most cases, the elbow’s range of motion will return to normal although the elbow joint may be stiff for a bit.

What is a Growth Plate Injury of the Elbow?

Growth plates are the areas of tissue that are growing on the long bones of children. A growth plate injury of the elbow is a break (fracture) near or on the end of the upper arm bone (humerus) or lower arm bones (radius or ulna) where they come together to form the elbow joint.

A fracture in the growth plate can cause slow growth or problems with the shape of the bone if not treated right away.