Bones in adults and children are mostly subject to the same types of injuries. However, fractures in the longs bones of children can be more complicated due to the possibility of trauma causing a growth plate disturbance and affecting a child’s physical development.
Growth plates are pieces of cartilage located at the ends of children’s long bones which create new bone cells and determine the length and shape of a child’s mature bones. Growth plates normally do not harden into bone until a child meets skeletal maturity which makes them highly susceptible to injury. Growth plate disturbances can result in the growth plate hardening prematurely, limb deformities, and leg length discrepancies.
Growth plate disturbances occur in growing children and can be caused by a traumatic injury, tumor, infection, or limb deformity.
The most common symptoms of a growth plate disturbance are visible limb deformities, severe and persistent pain, and the inability to comfortably move or bear weight/pressure on a limb.
In cases of trauma, the affected limb would be physically examined for signs of a fracture or any other abnormalities. X-rays would then be ordered to diagnose the growth plate disturbance. In some instances, MRI and CT scans along with ultrasounds may also be ordered to obtain detailed 3D images of the affected bone.
Treatment options for growth plate disturbances depend on the type of disturbance, age and health of the child, and any associated injuries. Mild fractures are typically treated with casting and immobilization while severe fractures are treated with surgery, internal fixation, removal of the bar bridging the growth plate, and in some cases removal of the growth plate in a procedure known as epiphysiodesis.
- Growth Plate Fractures. (n.d.). AAOS.org. Retrieved July 25, 2014, from http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00040