Skip to Content

Open Reduction and Internal Fixation of an Elbow Fracture in Children

What is it?

An open reduction and internal fixation (fix-a-shun) of a fractured (or broken) bone is called O-R-I-F for short. Surgery is used to fix your child's broken elbow if the break is very bad or happened in several places. Several kinds of childhood elbow fractures may need this kind of surgery. These kinds of fractures are most often seen in children younger than 15 years of age. How long it will take for your child's elbow to heal is different for every child. But, children's bodies grow and change every day, so fractures usually heal faster than in adults. An x-ray will show when the broken bone is healed.


Elbow fractures commonly happen in younger children because the ligaments and joints are often stronger than the bones. Ligaments are strong tissue straps that hold bones together. Your child may have broken his elbow by falling on his outstretched arm or on the tip of the elbow joint. It may also happen with sports injuries where twisting types of movements and overuse causes fractures of the elbow. A severe broken elbow can also happen if hit straight on, like in a car accident. Fractures in children younger than 1 year of age are uncommon because their bones are very flexible and "rubbery." Fractures in these children may be caused by problems with how a bone was formed, tumors, or physical abuse.

Signs and Symptoms:

Your child may have pain, swelling, or bruising in the injured area. The bones may not look like they are bent, or they may be poking through the skin. Your child may hold the elbow with his other hand to lessen the pain. He may have trouble moving his elbow and it may feel weak, numb, and tingly. Or, your child may not be able to move his elbow at all.


Orthopedic (or-thuh-p-dik) hardware (screws or plates) will be used to hold the pieces of bone together while they heal. Caregivers will want your child to get up soon after surgery. Your child may be in the hospital 1 to 2 days, or he may get to go home the same day. Caregivers pay close attention to fractures near physes (fi-sees) or growth plates. Ask your caregiver if your child's fracture may effect his bone growth. Caregivers will also watch for compartment syndrome. Compartment syndrome is pain, swelling, weakness, and decreased blood flow in the muscles of the legs and arms.


  • Cast or splint.
  • Ice.
  • Medicine.
  • Physical therapy or exercises.
  • Sling.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. You can then discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers. Work with them to decide what care may be used to treat your child.

Further information

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