Broken Elbow

You can have peace of mind knowing that the skilled experts in our Orthopedic Center's Hand and Orthopedic Upper Extremity Program have treated thousands of babies and children with many arm conditions.  We provide expert diagnosis, treatment and care, and we benefit from our advanced clinical and scientific research.

What are broken elbows?

A broken elbow is a break, at or near the elbow joint, in one or more of the three arm bones that form the joint: the humerus (upper arm bone), radius, and/or ulna (forearm bones).

Pediatric elbow fractures are usually the result of an impact injury, like in a direct blow, or when a child uses his outstretched arm to break a fall. A fractured elbow is typically treated by splinting or casting the area for about four weeks.

The elbow consists of the ulnar, the radius, the biceps tendon, the humerous, the biceps muscle, the triceps muscle, and the ulnar collateral ligament.

What are the signs and symptoms of broken elbows in children?

  • pain or swelling in the elbow or forearm
  • an obvious deformity in the elbow or forearm
  • difficulty moving, flexing, or extending the arm normally
  • warmth, bruising, or redness at or near the elbow

What causes broken elbows in children?

A bone breaks when there’s more force applied to the bone than it can withstand. These breaks can occur from falls, trauma, or a direct blow. Most childhood fractures result from mild to moderate (rather than severe) trauma that happens while children are playing or participating in sports, with the rate of fractures peaking in adolescence, especially among boys.

What are the types and locations of elbow fractures?

Because the elbow is such a complex joint, one way to classify elbow fractures is by their location in or around the joint. Some elbow fracture locations include:

  • Above the elbow (supracondylar humerus fracture): Occurs when the upper arm bone (humerus) breaks just above the elbow. This is the most common elbow break in younger children.
  • At the elbow “knob” (condylar fracture): A break through one of the bony knobs (lateral and medial condyles) at the end of the humerus.
  • At the elbow tip (epicondylar fracture): A break at the end of the humerus, near the bony knob that makes up the tip of the elbow. This is common in pre- and early-adolescent children.
  • At the growth plate (physeal fracture): A break that occurs at, into, or across a growth plate (soft pieces of developing cartilage tissue from which bone grows)
  • At the elbow end of the radius (radial neck fracture): A dislocation of one of the joints of the elbow can accompany one of the above fractures, and if present, will be addressed at the same time as treatment of the fracture.

Learn more about the different types of fractures in children.