As parents, one of the most distressing things to witness is a painful elbow fracture in our little ones. Being unable to use their arms as they used to can be devastating for them, and it can be heartbreaking for us to see them in pain.
As such, it’s essential to understand a pediatric elbow fracture, its causes, symptoms, and treatments. This article will discuss the three most common types of fractures that occur in the elbow area and what steps you can take to ensure your child recovers fully.
What is a Pediatric elbow fracture?
It is an injury in the elbow joint’s bone or cartilage. These fractures are most common in children between ages 5 and 10 and are caused by various reasons, including falls, sports injuries, or accidents. It’s essential to identify if your child has a fracture, as any injury to the elbow can result in long-lasting pain and stiffness if left untreated.
Three Types of Elbow Fractures
When it comes to finding out that your child has fractured their elbow, the news can be alarming and distressing.
But having access to reliable information about different types of pediatric elbow fractures can help you make informed decisions about your child’s treatment and recovery—decisions that might seem overwhelming but also offer peace of mind for solo parents or dual-parent households.
We’ll explain each type in detail, so you know what questions to ask your doctor regarding your situation or injury.
1. Olecranon Fractures:
The olecranon is the bony tip of the elbow. This bone is responsible for helping the elbow extend and move back and forth. Olecranon fractures occur when too much stress is placed on the elbow, which can cause a crack or a full break in the bone.
These fractures are common in children, especially those prone to falling or taking high-impact blows to the elbow. The most common symptoms are intense pain, swelling, and difficulty when extending the elbow.
Depending on the severity of the fracture, treatment can range from a cast to surgery. Your doctor will recommend the best treatment based on the severity of the fracture.
2. Radial Head Fractures:
The radial head is the upper part of the radius bone located in the forearm. This bone connects to the humerus bone at the elbow joint. A fracture to the radial head occurs when there is a break, crack, or dislocation.
This type of fracture can occur when your child falls on an outstretched hand or elbow, causing the arm to twist awkwardly. The symptoms of a radial head fracture include pain, swelling, and the inability to rotate the forearm. Treatment may range from rest to surgery, depending on the extent of the fracture.
3. Distal Humerus Fractures:
The distal humerus is the lower end of the humerus bone, located near the elbow. Fractures to this bone usually occur when there is a severe impact on the elbow.
These fractures are common in children, especially those involved in high-impact sports such as skateboarding or biking. The symptoms are similar to the other fractures mentioned above, such as pain, swelling, and difficulty when moving the elbow.
How Common Are Elbow Fractures in Children?
Elbow fractures in children are actually quite common and, unfortunately, can cause serious injury. Depending on the child’s age, elbow fractures can occur from various causes.
The older our kids get beyond 2 years old until about 6-7 years old physical activities become more popular, which encourages running and jumping and bike riding – all of which increase chances for kids falling onto outstretched hands leading to pediatric elbow fractures.
Another source is collision sports such as football or soccer, where competitors collide into each other with great force outstretching their arms in an effort to block someone’s pass or shot with one’s hand leading to potentially accidental trauma cases resulting in broken elbows that will require surgical treatment depending on the severity of the case.
What Causes a Fractured Elbow in Children?
Trauma or Injury
The most common cause of pediatric elbow fractures in children is trauma or injury. This can occur due to a fall, a direct hit, or sudden twisting motion.
Young children who are just learning to walk or run and older kids who participate in sports or other physical activities are particularly prone to pediatric elbow fractures. Kids who participate in contact sports like football or hockey may also be at a higher risk.
Overuse or Repetitive Movements
While less common than trauma or accidents, overuse or repetitive movements can also lead to Pediatric elbow fractures in children.
This is sometimes referred to as “little league elbow” in reference to baseball players who throw the ball over and over again with the same arm. Children who engage in other activities that require repetitive elbow movements, such as gymnastics or dance, may also be at risk.
Growth plate fractures
Children have growth plates that are made of softer, weaker tissues that are not yet fully developed. These tissues are more prone to fractures compared to mature bones. Growth plate fractures differ from typical fractures because they can cause problems with bone growth or joints years after the fracture has healed.
Does Elbow Fracture Need Cast?
When it comes to pediatric elbow fractures, it really depends on the severity of the fracture as to whether or not a cast will be necessary.
Generally speaking, if the fracture is considered simple (in other words, no bone displacement or major trauma has occurred), then a conservative treatment with a cast may be sufficient for healing.
This type of treatment usually involves immobilizing and stabilizing the elbow using a splint, sling or brace so that the bone can heal properly in its natural alignment.
However, when it comes to more complex fractures, those where bone fragments are displaced—more aggressive measures may need to be taken for proper healing and rehabilitation.
In these cases, surgery might be recommended to accurately realign and stabilize all pieces of bone involved in the fracture so that they will heal correctly over time. These surgeries could involve pinning or plating techniques depending on what your doctor deems best for your child’s injury.
No parent ever expects their little one to suffer from an elbow fracture. But these fractures can be extremely serious and require immediate medical attention, as delays in treatment can cause long-term risk of pain and stiffness.
Contact Dr. Capogna @ 516-627-8717 or request an immediate appointment for further examination and care. It’s important to remember that adequate care needs follow-up visits to assess the healing process accurately. Parents need to stay informed on pediatric elbow fractures so they know how best to secure their little one’s well-being when faced with this issue.