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Elbow

Elbow injuries are often painful and may require immediate attention. If you suspect your child has a fractured elbow, visit one of our our fracture clinics at three convenient locations and our pediatric orthopedic physicians will see you right away.

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

Elbow injuries

If you suspect your child has an elbow injury, the pediatric physicians at Medical City Children’s Orthopedic and Spine Specialist will evaluate your child to check for a possible fracture. it’s important to see a pediatric orthopedic physician because several growth plates surround the elbow joint in children and elbows are especially prone to injuries in growth plate areas. Our pediatric orthopedic physicians ensure injuries to the growth plates are factored into treatment. Our physicians understand the impact growth plates may have on a child’s development, and we ensure your child has the best possible outcome. Many activities can cause elbow fractures in children, but falling from jungle gyms are by far the primary source. Other common activities that cause elbow 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 elbow
  • Swelling or discoloration (bruising) around the elbow
  • Pain around the elbow joint

Diagnoses

One of our pediatric orthopedic physicians 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 is uncommon, it is important to know if there is a problem. Injuries to the blood supply of the arm may necessitate early surgical intervention. At Medical City Children’s Pediatric and Spine Specialists, we use a low radiation x-ray machine to diagnose elbow fractures. In more severe injuries, the fracture may easily be seen on x-ray, but it is not uncommon to have certain types of elbow fractures that do not show up on x-ray. Unlike normal broken bones, growth plate fractures may not show up on an x-ray. Therefore, one of our pediatric physicians may request an x-ray 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. In this case, the elbow should be treated as having a break.

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

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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. A splint is commonly used when there is suspicion of an elbow fracture. In the case of normal x-rays, a splint is placed and your child will take new x-rays in approximately a week after injury. Repeat x-rays often show signs of healing of the fracture. Casts  Casts are often used to treat elbow fractures. More commonly, the elbow will be splinted for a week, and a cast may be placed after the swelling has time to subside. Surgery – Pins are used to stabilize the fracture in a proper position. Pins are placed by a pediatric orthopedic physician. 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 be necessary to reposition 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. Pins are usually used in younger children, but in children who are approaching skeletal maturity, a screw might be used. Complications are unusual, but do occur in a small percentage of patients. Our pediatric orthopedic physicians will follow your child until the fracture healing is complete, and we may ask for a follow-up to ensure the growth and motion around the elbow are normal.

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

Call 214-556-0590 to make an appointment.

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