Growth plate fractures
Growth plate fractures
Growth plates are the softer parts of your child's bones, where growth occurs. Located at each end of a bone, growth plates are the weakest sections of the skeleton — sometimes even weaker than surrounding ligaments and tendons. Because growth plates are so fragile, an injury that would result in a joint sprain for an adult can cause a growth plate fracture in your child.
Growth plate fractures often need immediate treatment because they can affect how the bone will grow. An improperly treated growth plate fracture could result in a fractured bone ending up more crooked or shorter than its opposite limb. But the comforting news for your child is that with proper treatment, most growth plate fractures heal without complications.
Most growth plate fractures occur in bones of the:
Signs and symptoms of a growth plate fracture may include:
When to see a doctor
Growth plates are located at the ends of your child's bones. If a fracture goes through a growth plate, it can result in a shorter or twisted limb. ...
About 15 percent of all childhood fractures involve a growth plate. Growth plate fractures often are caused by a fall or a blow to the limb, as might occur in:
Growth plate fractures can also be caused by overuse, which can occur during sports training.
Growth plate fractures occur twice as often in boys. They're most common between the ages of 9 and 15.
Girls age 12 and older experience these types of fractures less often because their growth plates have already matured and been replaced with solid bone.
Around 85 percent of growth plate fractures heal with no complications. The following factors can increase the risk of twisted or stunted bone growth.
Preparing for your appointment
If your child is injured, you may go straight to an emergency room or urgent care clinic. Depending on the severity of the break, the doctor who first examines your child may recommend a consultation with a pediatric orthopedic surgeon.
What you can do
What to expect from your doctor
During the physical exam, your doctor will inspect the affected area for tenderness, swelling, deformity or an open wound.
Tests and diagnosis
Because growth plates haven't hardened into solid bone, they are difficult to interpret on X-rays. Sometimes, doctors ask for X-rays of both the injured limb and the opposite limb so that they can be compared. In some cases, scans that can visualize soft tissue — such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computerized tomography (CT) or ultrasound — may be ordered.
Treatments and drugs
Treatment for growth plate fractures depends on the severity of the fracture. The least serious fractures usually require only a cast or a splint. Injuries in which a part of the bone end has separated from the bone shaft typically will need surgical repair.
If your child has had a growth plate fracture, your doctor may want to compare the growth of the injured limb with that of its opposite limb every three to six months for at least two years. Depending on the severity of the fracture, your child may need follow-up visits until his or her bones have finished growing.
Last Updated: 2010-10-21
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