Splinting is the treatment for many elbow fractures, especially those that have minimal displacement (are not out of place). A splint is also commonly used when there is suspicion of an elbow fracture but with normal x-rays.
In the case of normal x-rays, a splint will be placed and your child will have new x-rays about a week after injury. The repeat x-rays often show signs of healing of the fracture.
Casts are often used to treat elbow fractures, but not after the initial injury. More commonly the elbow will be splinted for a week, and a cast may be placed after the swelling has had time to subside.
Surgical options include:
Pins are often used to stabilize the fracture in proper position. The pins are placed by an orthopedic surgery with your child under general anesthesia. The pins hold the fracture in proper position until sufficient healing has taken place, usually about 3 to 6 weeks. A small incision may be necessary to reposition the fracture and to protect the nerves around the elbow joint.
In older children, sometimes a screw is used to hold the fracture in proper position. Pins are usually used in younger children, but in children who are approaching skeletal maturity a screw may be used instead.
Because the fractures are often around the growth plate, there is always a change of injury to the growth plate. This may cause early closure of the growth plate. This is uncommon, and the only way to tell is the growth plate is permanently injured is to watch the child over time.
Other potential complications include restriction of motion of the elbow joint, damage to nerves and blood vessels around the elbow, and infection of the pins that are place into the elbow.
Complications are unusual, but they do occur in a small percentage of patients. Your doctor will follow your child until fracture healing is complete, and then may ask for a follow-up to ensure growth and motion around the elbow is normal. The parent can also monitor the elbow joint and alert the doctor if there is suspicion of a problem after a fracture.