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Growth plate fractures

Growth plate fractures take place in regions where the bones end. These growth plates allow children to grow. Take note that growth plate fractures occur only among children and teenagers.

The growth plates are areas composed of cartilage in the long bones. They enable the bones to extend until children achieve their full height. Once growth is complete, the growth plates are substituted with bone upon reaching 20.

What are the causes?

The growth plate fractures can stem from:

  • Repeated stress placed on the bones
  • Involved in an accident such as a vehicular accident or fall

The bones can end up stressed by repeating the same movement such as when children or teenagers are under training particularly pitchers, gymnasts or long-distance runners.

Growth plate fractures
Growth plate fractures occur only among children and teenagers.

Indications of growth plate fractures

The regions over the growth plate is usually painful or sore, especially when it is touched. This area is also swollen and even feels warm to the touch. Children also have difficulty moving the affected limb or placing any weight or pressure on it.

How is it diagnosed

If the child has symptoms that indicate a growth plate fracture, he/she must be taken to a doctor or the nearest emergency department.

The doctor suspects a growth plate fracture based on the symptoms. An X-ray is carried out to detect most growth plate fractures. Nevertheless, certain forms of fractures might not be detected. Oftentimes, children are assumed to have a fracture and treated accordingly. Reassessment is done in a few days. If the area is still tender and sore, it is an indication of a growth plate fracture.

Management

Some cases of growth plate fractures are managed by immobilization of the affected area using a splint or cast. If the broken bone pieces are widely separated or the fracture extends into a joint, the pieces are realigned or restored back in place.

Depending on the form of growth fracture, reduction may or may not require surgery. If possible, the doctor will move the bone pieces back in place from outside the body without creating an incision. A splint or cast is used to secure the bones in place.

Oftentimes, reduction requires surgery, usually open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF). If ORIF is performed, the broken bones are held in place using a combination of metal wires, screws, pins, rods and plates.

In case the growth plate is crushed, the child is referred to a pediatric orthopedist since such injuries almost always result to abnormal growth.

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