What is growth plate fracture?

Growth Plate Fracture

Growth plate fracture: Overview

A growth plate fracture is a type of break in a child's long bone, such as a thigh bone. Arms, lower legs, and fingers are other examples of limbs that have long bones.

Growth plates are located at both ends of a long bone. A break that goes through the growth plate can affect the growth of that bone. These type of breaks are common.

Treatment for your child's broken bone will depend on how bad the break is and where it's located. Many broken bones need only splinting or casting. Others may need surgery to realign the bone or keep it in place.

Your doctor may have put the broken bone in a splint or a cast. This 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. You can help it heal with some care at home.

A sedative may have been given to help your child relax. Your child may be unsteady after having sedation. It takes time (sometimes a few hours) for the medicine's effects to wear off. Common side effects include nausea, vomiting, and feeling sleepy or cranky.

What are the symptoms of a growth plate fracture?

A growth plate fracture may cause pain and swelling. The injured limb may look crooked or deformed, and your child may not be able to move it or put weight on it.

How is a growth plate fracture treated?

Treatment will depend on how serious the fracture is and its location. A doctor may put the broken bone in a splint or a cast to keep the bone stable while it heals. This may be all your child needs. But some children need surgery to realign the bone or keep it in place.

How is a growth plate fracture 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 can you care for your child who has a growth plate fracture?

  • Follow your doctor's directions for wearing a cast or splint.
    • If your child has a splint, do not take it off unless the doctor tells you to.
    • If your child's splint is too tight, ask your doctor if it can be adjusted. Your doctor will show you how to do this and will tell you when you might need to adjust the splint.
  • Be safe with medicines. Give pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask the doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • Store your child's prescription pain medicines where no one else can get to them. When you are done using them, dispose of them quickly and safely. Your local pharmacy or hospital may have a drop-off site.
  • If possible, prop up the injured limb on a pillow anytime your child sits or lies down during the next 3 days. Try to keep it above the level of your child's heart. This will help reduce swelling.

What can cause a growth plate fracture?

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.

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 or finger. Growth plates are located at both ends of a long bone. A break that goes through the growth plate can affect the growth of that bone.

Growth plate fracture in children: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or your child coughs up blood.
  • Your child has trouble breathing. Symptoms may include:
    • Using the belly muscles to breathe.
    • The chest sinking in or the nostrils flaring when your child struggles to breathe.
  • Your child is very sleepy and is hard to wake up.
  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has increased or severe pain.
  • Your child has problems with the cast or splint. For example:
    • The skin under the cast or splint is burning or stinging.
    • The cast or splint feels too tight.
    • There is a lot of swelling near the cast or splint. (Some swelling is normal.)
    • Your child has a new fever.
    • There is drainage or a bad smell coming from the cast or splint.
    • Your child's skin around the broken bone feels cold or changes color.
  • Your child has symptoms of a blood clot in the arm or leg (called a deep vein thrombosis). These may include:
    • Pain in the arm, calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness and swelling in the arm, leg, or groin.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.

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