Distal Humerus Growth Plate Fracture

A distal humerus plate fracture is a fracture to the growth plate at the end of the upper arm bone which forms the top part of the elbow joint. This injury occurs in children and is caused by a traumatic incident such as a fall or impact.

Distal humerus plate fracture symptoms

Symptoms include sudden pain on impact or trauma to the elbow. There will be rapid swelling, loss of movement and the elbow may appear deformed. This injury is not likely to affect grown adults.

Causes

The growth plates or epiphysis as it is known of long bones such as the humerus are found at the ends. In children and adolescents this area is cartilage, rather than bone. As our skeletons reach maturity, the cartilage ossifies, hardening to bone. Because these are the last areas of bone to harden, they are more at risk of injury in children as the ligaments supporting the joint are stronger than the bone itself.

As with most fractures, this injury occurs most frequently following a fall onto the arm or elbow. A direct force or impact to the elbow may also cause this injury.

Treatment

If a fracture is suspected, visit a Doctor asap. An X-ray will be used to try diagnose the injury, although as the growth plate is still cartilage it may not show and so an MRI may be better. Treatment depends on the extent of the fracture and any displacement.

Minor fractures may simply require casting to immobilize the joint for 4-6 weeks. Fractures where the bones are displaced will require mobilization either manually (using the hands to manipulate them back into place) or via surgery. A cast is then used so the bones can heal in place.

In some severe cases, the parts of bone are pinned together during surgery. After the immobilization period, exercises should be performed to regain full movement and strength.