There are several fractures that occur around the elbow. Most of them occur when a child falls from a height, like the monkey bars. Unfortunately, many fractures that occur near the elbow require surgery because of one of two reasons:
- The fracture pieces are very separated from each other and would heal poorly if left in this position.
- The fracture crosses into the elbow joint and the bones need to be aligned as perfectly as possible to prevent future arthritis.
Injuries around the elbow are frequent in children, and can involve any of three bones. These are the humerus, which is the upper arm bone, or the radius or ulna, which are the two bones of the forearm. In young children, the elbow joint is largely cartilage, which can make injuries difficult to detect on x-ray. The elbow has a number of growth centers that may be injured in various fractures. These growth centers ossify, or turn to bone, as a child grows and matures, which can make the elbow x-rays of children of different ages look very different, and can further complicate proper diagnosis of elbow injuries. Below is a normal xray of a 9 year old boy demonstrating the three bones that make up the elbow joint.
Common Elbow Injuries
Supracondylar Humerus Fractures
These fractures are some of the most common fractures in children and account for over half of the fractures around the elbow alone. The break, or fracture, occurs just above the elbow joint, through the humerus. Read more.
Lateral Condyle Fractures
Lateral Condyle fractures are a common type of elbow injury in children. They account for 17-20% of elbow fractures in children and commonly are due to a fall on an outstretched hand. Read more.
Medial Epicondyle Fractures
Medial Epicondyle fractures are another common type of elbow fracture seen in children. The inside portion of the elbow is injured, frequently due to a fall on an outstretched hand. Read more.
Elbow dislocations account for about 3-6% of pediatric elbow injuries. The injury occurs when the joint between the ulna and humerus comes out of place, and most commonly occurs due to a fall on an outstretched hand. Read more.
Radial Head & Neck Fractures
Radial neck fractures account for about 1-5% elbow injuries in children. They usually occur in children around 9-10 years old, and occur equally as often in boys and girls. Read more.
Nursemaid’s Elbow is a common elbow injury seen in children around 2-5 years old. Caused by sudden pull on the child’s arm, symptoms include the child carrying the arm with the elbow slightly bend with the palm down. Read more.