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Learning About a Growth Plate Fracture in Children

Growth plate fracture in the lower arm

What is a growth plate fracture?

A growth plate fracture is a break that goes through the growth plate in a child's long bone, such as a thigh bone. Arms, lower legs, and fingers also have long bones. Growth plates are located at both ends of a long bone. This type of break is also called a Salter-Harris fracture.

A growth plate fracture is important because your child's bones are still growing. A break that goes through the growth plate can affect the growth of that bone. Treatment can help the broken bone heal correctly and help keep it growing at the same rate as other bones.

What can cause it?

A fall or a collision is often the cause of a growth plate fracture. For example, it may occur from falling off a skateboard or running into another player during a game. Until a child stops growing, the growth plates are fairly weak and prone to injury. So these kinds of fractures are common.

How is it diagnosed?

The doctor will ask about your child's symptoms and how the injury occurred and will do a physical exam. Your child may have an imaging test, such as an X-ray, CT scan, or MRI.

How is a growth plate fracture treated?

Treatment will depend on how serious the break is and its location.

Your child's doctor may have put the broken bone in a splint or a cast. That will allow it to heal or keep it stable until your child sees another doctor. It may take weeks or months for your child's break to heal.

Your child may only need a cast or splint. Some breaks may need surgery to realign the bone or keep it in place.

Treatment may include more follow-up visits so the doctor can see that bone growth is happening as it should.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Where can you learn more?

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