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ELBOW INJURIES

Elbow injuries can become painful and may require immediate attention. If you suspect your child fractured an elbow, visit one of our Fracture Care Clinics at four convenient locations in the Dallas, Texas area and our pediatric orthopedic physicians will see you right away.

Fractured elbows appear among the most common injuries we see in children.

Elbow Injuries

Little girl with a cast on her elbowIf you suspect your child fractured his or her elbow injury, the pediatric physicians at Medical City Children’s Orthopedic and Spine Specialist will evaluate your child to check for a possible fracture.  Additionally, it’s important to see a pediatric orthopedic physician because several growth plates surround the elbow joint in children and this area of the body sustains injuries in growth plate areas.

Importantly, our pediatric orthopedic physicians prioritize growth plates and factor them into the treatment of any elbow injuries.  Furthermore, our doctors understand the impact that growth plates may have on a child’s development. As such, the doctors ensure your child has the best possible outcome. Also, many activities can cause joint fractures in children, but falling from jungle gyms seems likely as the primary source. Meanwhile, other common activities that cause joint injuries include gymnastics, football, jumping on beds, and rough play. Signs that your child may have a broken elbow include:

  • The inability to straighten or bend the arm
  • Swelling or discoloration (bruising) around the area
  • Pain around the joint

Diagnosis

Mother checking daughters injured elbowOur doctors will first evaluate your child’s arm for signs of damage to the nerves and blood vessels around the elbow joint. While damage to these structures does not normally occur, we carefully look to eliminate potential problems.  Injuries to the blood supply of the arm may necessitate early surgical intervention.

At Medical City Children’s Orthopedic and Spine Specialists, we use an X-ray machine to diagnose elbow fractures. In more severe injuries, the fracture may easily be seen on an X-ray image, but certain types of joint fractures do not always show up. Unlike normal broken bones, growth plate fractures may not show up on X-ray images. Therefore, one of our pediatric physicians may request an X-ray exam of the opposite elbow to compare the difference. Often the only sign of a broken elbow in a child is swelling seen on X-ray images. In this case, the injury should be treated as having a broken bone.

Our board-certified physicians treat growth plates in growing bones.

“Since elbow fractures are often seen around the growth plate area, there is a chance of injury to the growth plate. Our pediatric orthopedic physicians have the expertise to treat growth plate injuries and we watch the child over time to ensure their growth plate has not been injured.” Shyam Kishan, MD

Elbow Injuries Treatment

Treatment of elbow fractures depends on several factors including:
  • Location of the fracture
  • Amount of displacement of the fracture
  • Age of the patient
  • Damage to nerves and blood vessels

Splints

Splinting is the treatment for many elbow fractures, especially those with minimal displacement. The use of a splint occurs when an elbow fracture might exist.  When X-rays confirm an elbow fracture, splints work to stabilize the joint until swelling goes down.  Additional X-rays can be used to ensure healing is occurring correctly.

Casts

Casts are often used to treat elbow fractures. More commonly, we will splint the joint for a week while the swelling subsides, and then put a cast on the child’s arm.

Surgery

If surgery is needed, your orthopedic physician may use pins to stabilize the fracture in a proper position. The pins hold the fracture in proper position until sufficient healing takes place, which is usually in approximately 3 to 6 weeks. A small incision may necessitate the reposition of the fracture and to protect the nerves around the elbow joint.

In older children, a screw might be used to hold the fracture in the proper position. For younger children, we will maybe use pins, but in children who are approaching skeletal maturity, a screw might be required to hold the bones in place during healing. Complications do occur in a very small percentage of patients. Finally, your doctor will monitor your child until the fracture finishes healing, and he or she may ask for a follow-up appointment to ensure the growth and motion around the elbow heal correctly.

Our pediatric physicians at Medical City Children’s Orthopedic and Spine Specialists have expertise in the treatment of elbow fractures and injuries to the growth plates. Our board-certified physicians specialize in the treatment of children and adolescents and can give your child the care and attention they deserve to continue their healthy active life.

Call 214-556-0590 for an appointment.

Comprehensive services for children from birth through adolescence at four convenient locations: Arlington, Dallas, Frisco and McKinney.