Conditions & Treatments

Elbow Fracture in Kids

Fractures around the elbow are very common in children, comprising 1 of every 10 fractures in children. These fractures usually result from falling on an outstretched arm. Some of the more common locations for breakage are:

  • Above the elbow (supracondylar)—fractures of the upper arm above the elbow are most common and usually occur in children under 8. They are potentially serious because of the risk of associated nerve and blood vessel damage.
  • At the knob of the elbow (condylar)—fractures of the protuberances of the upper arm bone risk damage to the joint and the growth plate.
  • Next to the knob of the elbow (epicondylar)—these fractures usually occur in children between 9 and 14.
  • Below the elbow—these are usually fractures of the radius bone associated with severe elbow dislocation.

Fractures that damage the growth plate are particularly serious because of the potential impact on future bone growth.

The symptoms of an elbow fracture are similar to those of any fracture: pain, tenderness, swelling, and limitation of movement. You should be particularly suspicious of an elbow fracture if your child falls and then will not straighten his or her arm. X-rays are particularly useful in the diagnosis of elbow fractures because they can tell the physician where the fracture is located and how much movement of the bones has occurred. The physician will also wish to determine whether there is nerve or blood vessel damage. Surgery and sometimes pins may be needed to re-align the bones.

Use of appropriate protective equipment for sports can reduce the risk of elbow fracture.