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Elbow Fracture in Children


An elbow fracture

is a break in one or more of the 3 bones that form your child's elbow joint. An elbow fracture is often caused by an injury. An example is a fall onto an outstretched hand with a bent elbow.

Child Arm Bones

Common signs and symptoms include the following:

  • Pain and tenderness
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Trouble moving the arm or not being able to move the arm at all
  • Weakness or numbness in the elbow, arm, or hand
  • Deformity (the arm is shaped differently than normal)

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child's elbow, arm, or fingers are numb.
  • Your child's skin is swollen, cold, or pale.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child's pain gets worse, even after he or she rests and takes pain medicine.
  • Your child has new or increased trouble moving his or her arm.
  • Your child has new sores around the area of his or her splint or cast.
  • Your child's cast or splint becomes damaged.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Treatment for an elbow fracture

may include any of the following:

  • Prescription pain medicine may be given to your child. Ask how to safely give your child this medicine.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
  • A device such as a splint, cast, or sling may be put on your child's elbow and arm. The device will hold the broken bones in place while they heal, help decrease pain, and prevent more damage.
  • Surgery may be needed to hold bones in their normal position with pins, wires, or screws. Surgery may also be done if your child has other injuries, such as nerve or blood vessel damage.

Manage your child's symptoms:

  • Elevate your child's elbow above the level of his or her heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your child's elbow on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably. Have your child wiggle his or her fingers and open and close them to prevent hand stiffness.
  • Apply ice on your child's elbow for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Take your child to physical therapy as directed. A physical therapist can teach your child exercises to help improve movement and strength and to decrease pain.

Care for your child's cast or splint:

Follow instructions about when your child may take a bath or shower. It is important not to get the cast or splint wet. Cover the device with 2 plastic bags before you let your child bathe. Tape the bags to your child's skin above the device to help keep out water. Have your child keep his or her arm out of the water in case the bag breaks.

  • Check the skin around your child's cast or splint daily for any redness or open skin.
  • Do not let your child use a sharp or pointed object to scratch the skin under the cast or splint.
  • Do not let your child push down or lean on any part of the cast, because it may break.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Your child may need x-rays to check how well the bones are healing. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Learn more about Elbow Fracture in Children (Ambulatory Care)

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