Growth Plate Fracture Overview
A growth plate fracture is a type of skeletal injury that is unique to children and adolescents. Also referred to as a Salter-Harris fracture, this injury affects the area of growing tissue near the end of long bones called the growth plate. The growth plate produces new bone tissue as a child ages and eventually is replaced by solid bone during adolescence. Because growth plates are the weakest part of a child’s skeleton, they are especially vulnerable to becoming fractured. Most growth plate fractures occur in the long bones of the fingers and in the outer bone of the forearm. They are also common in the tibia and the fibula – the two long bones found in the leg below the knee.
How, exactly, does a growth plate fracture occur?
A growth plate can break as a result of:
- An automobile accident
- A blow to the limb
- Child abuse
- Overuse (e.g., repetitive throwing)
- Participation in a contact sport
What Are Some Treatment Options?
Approximately 15 to 30 percent of all childhood bone fractures are growth plate fractures. If such a fracture is not diagnosed and treated promptly, the affected growth plate can stunt the proper development of the limb and adversely affect the length and shape of the mature bone. Treatment for a broken growth plate typically is immobilization. A cast is applied to the injured area and the child must limit his or her activities. In some cases, surgery might be necessary. Surgery often is required if multiple bone fragments are displaced and the fracture is unstable. The most common operation to correct a seriously fractured growth plate is called open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF).
The physicians at Tampa General Hospital’s Children's Medical Center provide growth plate fracture treatment. Children under our care receive world-class medical treatment from a team of highly experienced pediatric orthopedic professionals. To find a pediatric orthopedic surgeon, click here to use our Physician Finder.