Growth Plate Fracture

(Salter-Harris Fracture)

Definition

A growth plate fracture is a crack or split in or through the softer areas of a child's bone. These areas let the bone grow and will harden as a child gets older.

These fractures may cause problems with bone growth.

Femur Fracture

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Causes

Growth plate fractures are caused by trauma to the bone.

Risk Factors

These fractures only happen in growing children.

Things that may increase the chance of this fracture are:

  • Playing sports like basketball, football, or volleyball
  • Activities like skiing or skateboarding
  • Not wearing a seatbelt

Symptoms

The symptoms a child has depends on where the fracture is and whether it is mild or severe. Common places for this fracture are the long bones of the fingers, the forearms, and the lower legs. A child may have:

  • Pain
  • Swelling and bruising
  • A change in how the body part looks
  • Problems walking or using the body part

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about the child's symptoms and health history. The doctor will also ask how the injury happened. A physical exam will be done.

Images of the bone may be taken with:

Treatment

The goal is to make sure the bone heals the right way and can keep growing. The bone may be checked as a child grows to make sure it is growing the right way. Options are:

Bone Support

A cast or splint may be used to keep the bone in place while it heals. It will also provide support and ease pain.

Surgery

Children with a severe fracture may need surgery. Pins and screws may be used to reconnect bone pieces and hold them in place.

Prevention

Have your child take these steps to lower the chance of a fracture:

  • Always wear a seatbelt when riding in a car.
  • Wear padding and safety equipment for sports and activities.
  • Learn the right way to do exercises and play sports.
  • Take breaks from exercises and sports when tired.

RESOURCES:

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
http://familydoctor.org
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
http://orthoinfo.aaos.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Orthopaedic Association
http://www.coa-aco.org

References:

Growth Plate Fractures. Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons website. Available at: https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/growth-plate-fractures. Updated October 2014. Accessed September 19, 2019.
When your child needs a cast. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated May 2018. Accessed September 19, 2019.
Last reviewed September 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Teresa Briedwell, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS
Last Updated: 9/19/2019

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