Growth plate fractures deserve swift attention


July 20, 2012

Topic: hand doctors

Growth plate fractures, which occur at the end of long bones, need swift attention.

Considering how active children can be - running, climbing, jumping, falling and so on - it is is no surprise that they can be at risk for broken bones. However, when fractures affect a growth plate in the skeleton, attention from hand doctors or other orthopaedic specialists must be quick.

Growth plates are the end portions of the long bones of children, where most bone-lengthening takes place, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). They solidify and stop growing once an individuals reaches adulthood.

Between 15 and 30 percent of childhood fractures occur in a growth plate, the AAOS estimated. If not treated properly, these injuries may cause permanent changes.

"If part of the growth plate is affected, part of the bone can grow faster than the injured portion, causing angling of the bone. It can also result in the bone being shorter than adjacent bones (forearm, hand, lower leg, foot) or shorter than the same bone on the other side," pediatrician Dana Johnson wrote in a health column for the Wisconsin State Journal.

Johnson went on to remind parents that after a child experiences an injury, just because he or she can move with little trouble does not necessarily mean that a bone is not broken.

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