Elbow Fractures in Children

The elbow is a joint that consists of three bones – the upper arm bone called the humerus, and the two forearm bones called radius and ulna. An elbow fracture most commonly occurs when your child falls on an outstretched arm. Fractures are more common in children due to their extensive physical activities as well as their bone property. The ends of long bones in children have soft cartilage tissue called the growth plate, which eventually develops into solid bone as the child grows.

An elbow fracture can lead to severe pain in the elbow and numbness in the hand. Your child’s doctor first evaluates your child’s arm for signs of damage to blood vessels and nerves. An X-ray examination is then ordered to confirm and determine the severity of the fracture. Treatment of elbow fractures depends on the degree of displacement and type of fracture:

  • Nonsurgical treatment: If there is little or no displacement from the normal position, nonsurgical treatment is recommended. Your child’s doctor may immobilize the arm using a cast for 3 to 5 weeks. Regular X-rays are ordered to check if the bones are properly aligned.
  • Surgical treatment: Surgery may be recommended if the fracture has caused the bones to move out of alignment. Your child’s doctor brings the bones in correct alignment and may use metal pins, screws and wires to hold the bones in place. Your child will have to wear a cast for a few weeks. Exercises to improve the range of motion will be instructed after a month of healing.