Dr McGuire’s

Orthopaedic Services

Supracondylar Elbow Fractures

Fractures of the lower end of the humerus are fairly uncommon in adults. They are usually high energy injuries and require surgery. In children, however, it is quite a common area to break and usually occurs as a result of a fall on an outstretched hand or a direct blow to the elbow.

In children, it is referred to as a "Supracondylar fracture". A supracondylar elbow fracture is a break that occurs in the humerus, or upper arm bone, just above the elbow. Supracondylar humeral fracture can cause complications such as an injury to the nerves and blood vessels, or crooked healing called a malunion. Symptoms of a supracondylar elbow fracture include sudden intense pain in the elbow and forearm after a fall, a pop or snap at the time of injury, swelling around the elbow and numbness of the hand. Children may also experience the inability to move or straighten the arm.

Supracondylar fractures are common in children who are under 7 years old but may also affect older children. An extension type supracondylar fracture occurs when the humerus has been pushed back from the elbow joint and accounts for 95% of these type of fractures. They range from not being displaced to being severely displaced.

If these fractures are not displaced or minimally displaced, they can be treated with the use of a cast or splint, in order to immobilise the elbow joint and allow the healing process to begin. If the fractures are displaced, surgery may be required, which involves pushing straight the fractured bones and holding them in position with pins. The pins are then removed after a few weeks. Results are very good as children's bones heal very well and very quickly. An open reduction procedure with internal fixation may also be done if the displacement is more severe or the nerves or blood vessels are damaged.

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