| What Is A Growth Plate Fracture And How Is It Treated?
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What Is A Growth Plate Fracture And How Is It Treated?

What Is A Growth Plate Fracture And How Is It Treated?

Growth plate fractures are common among children and young adults because their bones are still growing. Growth plate fractures can be extremely painful and can limit what a child can do while it heals. There are many different treatment options available if your child has a growth plate fracture. Never ignore a child if they are complaining of painful areas near frequently used joints. This may be a sign of a growth plate fracture that needs to be examined by a physician.


What is a Growth Plate Fracture?


The growth plate, also referred to as the epiphyseal plate, is the area that is still growing near the end of long bones in children. Each long bone has at least two growth plates on each end. Growth plates determine the future length and shape of the mature bone, which can lead to estimations of height. When growth is complete, the growth plates close and are replaced by solid bone that is more stable. Injuries to the growth plate are fractures. These injuries commonly occur in children and adolescents because they still have growth plates.

The growth plate is the weakest area of the growing skeleton, weaker than the nearby ligaments and tendons that connect bones to other bones and muscles. In a growing child, a serious injury to a joint is more likely to damage a growth plate than the ligaments that stabilize the joint. An injury that would cause a sprain in an adult can be associated with a growth plate injury in a child.


Growth plate injuries are more commonly acute injuries that are the result of a fall or trauma. However, some fractures can be caused by long-term overuse of a joint, like in competitive athletes. Although many growth plate injuries are caused by accidents that occur during play or athletic activity, growth plates are also susceptible to other disorders, such as bone infection, that can alter their normal growth and development. Growth plate fractures are diagnosed through X-ray imaging or CT scans. A physician can determine if you have a fracture based on imaging and a thorough exam.


How Are Growth Plate Fractures Treated?


Your treatment will depend on the level of injury to your growth plate. Fractures are commonly divided into five separate categories based on severity. Type 1 fractures are defined as the epiphysis separating from the end of the bone completely, while the growth plate remains attached to the epiphysis. These fractures are set with a hard cast to keep the fracture in place as it heals.


Type 2 fractures are the most common form of growth plate injuries. In these fractures, the growth plate and epiphysis separated from the metaphysis. They are generally splinted or placed in a cast. Type 3 fractures are rare and require surgical intervention. Type 4 fractures run through the epiphysis, the growth plate, and into the metaphysis. Surgical intervention is also needed to repair type 4 fractures. Type 5 fractures are uncommon and occur when the bone is crushed and the growth plate becomes compressed. These are difficult to repair and bone growth is normally stunted after an injury of this kind.

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