UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Airway Management

Title: Pediatric Elbow X-ray Interpretation

Keywords: Elbow, fracture, trauma (PubMed Search)

Posted: 2/11/2017 by Brian Corwell, MD (Updated: 5/29/2024)
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Is that a fracture or a growth plate?

Pediatric elbow x-rays are complicated to interpret due to the large number of ossification centers.

Elbow trauma is common in pediatrics.

Ossification centers of the elbow appear in a reliable chronologic pattern which aids in distinguising fractures from growth plates.

Note the age ranges are an estimate with great variability. For example, girls can develop these up to 2 years earlier than boys.

The numbers 1/3/5/7/9/11 correspond to the average age of development of each ossification center

Years of fusion shown below in ()

Capitellum (12-14yo)

Radial head (14-16yo)

Medial epicondyle (16-18yo)

Trochlea (12-14yo)

Olecranon (15-17yo)

Lateral epicondyle (12-14yo)

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Consider ordering films of both elbows to compare if in doubt.

How is this useful? If the trochlear center is present, but there is no medial epicondyle then you are most likely looking at a fx where the ossification center has been avulsed and displaced.