Children are mostly playful, as they tend to run around and fall down easily. While crying over little bruises or wounds, some injuries might be serious (including bone fractures). While some symptoms are mild and subside within a few days, some might be serious and persistent, requiring proper treatments. In fact, one of the most common childhood injuries (especially in Singapore) is elbow fracture, accounting up to 10% of all childhood fractures. While some fractures can be treated using home remedies, some requires clinical treatments.
As children tend to run away and possibly fall down, it can lead to a fracture. If your child falls down fast enough with immense pressure, the bones on the elbow might break.
Types of Elbow Bones
There are 3 bones in the elbow joint, comprising of the humerus, radius and ulna. The humerus is the upper arm bone that goes from the shoulder to the elbow. The radius is the forearm bone between the elbow and wrist. It is on the thumb side of the forearm; the bone that help you rotate your wrist palms up and down. The ulna is the other forearm bone between the elbow and wrist. It is on the pinky side of the forearm. This bone helps the elbow to bend and straighten. After you have learnt about the different types of elbow bones, it might give you an insight about the bone your child has specifically fractured.
Some mild symptoms of elbow fracture include immediate pain, swelling and bruising. In the most severe cases, there might be crookedness, an inability to move the elbow and possibility of deformity. The crooked bone fragments can pressurise the blood vessels and affect the blood supply of the upper arm. This causes the affected arm to turn cold and pale (due to lack of blood circulation), causing the feeling of pins and needles (numbness). If left untreated, elbow fractures in childhood can cause serious functional limitation
After all, fractures are not “sleep it off” kind of injuries. In case of serious elbow fractures, you should take your child and seek immediate clinical treatment with an experienced orthopaedic surgeon. The affected elbow has to be immobilized with proper treatment performed. X-rays would be conducted to confirm the fracture.
Before visiting the orthopaedic surgeon, you can perform home remedies to treat the pain and swelling first. It is important to treat the fracture immediately as your child might be uncomfortable. There are different types of treatments for elbow fracture, including surgery. The orthopaedic surgeon will be able to diagnose the conditions and evaluate the most suitable treatment for your child.
The orthopaedic doctor will determine the extent of your child’s injury by evaluating symptoms such as tenderness, swelling, pain, mobility, bruising and colour of arms. During the physical examination, the doctor might use X-rays to determine whether there are any damage to the nerves or blood vessels. An x-ray provides clear images which helps the orthopaedic doctor to indicate what kind of fracture has occurred. After examining your child’s elbow fracture symptoms and medical history, the most suitable treatment will be conducted to aid the injury.
Types of Treatments
Depending on the type of fracture and the degree of displacement, the treatments might be simple or require immediate surgery. For instance, there are two types of treatments:
- Conservative treatment
- Backslab/full cast immobilisation for children with simple elbow fracture
- Manipulation and percutaneous pinning for children with moderately displaced fractures
- Open reduction and internal fixation for children with severely displaced fractures
It usually takes approximately 6 weeks for the fracture to fully heal. Strenuous activities are not highly advised unless your child is pain free with no swelling. It is important for your child to rest well and avoid active (physical) activities.
If you are searching for suitable clinics with professional orthopaedic surgeon, see our personal recommendations here.
After your child has come out of the elbow cast from the surgery, stiffness in the elbow is quite common. This symptom usually recovers on its own after a few months. However, physical therapy might help to speed up the mobility. If the bones have recovered and are lined up well, there will not be any uprising issue in the long-run. If the bone does not heal properly or heals in the wrong position, the elbow will look misplaced and have loss of motion. It is important to ensure that the orthopaedic surgeon is skilful and your child’s recovery process is smoothly conducted.