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Ulna Growth Plate Fracture

Elbow joint

Long bones such as the ulna in the forearm grow from both ends at regions known as the growth plates or epiphyseal plates. Fractures to this area occur in children as it is the last area of bone to fully mature.

Ulna growth plate fracture symptoms

Symptoms include pain following a fall onto the hand or arm, or a direct impact to the elbow. Pain and difficulty when trying to move the elbow with possible deformity. Rapid swelling is likely with tenderness when feeling the lower elbow joint and upper forearm area.

Causes

The growth plates of long bones such as the ulna 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, seek medical attention immediately. Immobilize the arm until this is possible. An X-ray or MRI will be taken to confirm the injury and determine the extent of displacement. In non-displaced fractures the arm may be immobilized in a cast for 4-6 weeks whilst the bones heal.

If displaced fractures, the bones need to be reduced. This may be done manually (by the doctor manipulating the bones) or via surgery. If surgery is undertaken the bones are moved back in line and held together using pins or wires. The arm is again casted for 4-6 weeks to allow healing.

Following immobilization, a rehab program should be followed to regain full movement and strength.

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