February 7, 2023

Salter-Harris fracture types

A Salter-Harris fracture is a fracture in the growth plate of a child’s bone. A growth plate is a layer of growing tissue close to the ends of a child’s bone. It’s very important to get this condition diagnosed since it can affect a child’s growth. Such fractures can occur in any long bone in the body, accounting for between 15% and 30% of all fractures in children. However, they’re most common in the fingers, wrists and legs due to overuse or trauma, perhaps as the result of a sporting injury.

Salter-Harris fractures must be diagnosed as quickly as possible. This is because the bone may not grow properly if the damage to the delicate cartilage at the end doesn’t heal correctly.


There are five different types of Salter-Harris fracture

It’s important to understand what the five types of Salter-Harris fracture are and the differences between them.


Type 1

This type is more common in younger children and doesn’t usually affect the child’s growth. The fracture itself goes through the growth plate.


Type 2

This fracture goes through the wide portion of a long bone and the growth plate, however it doesn’t affect the end of the bone. Again it’s a pretty common one, but generally affects children aged 10 and over. Healing is usually fast so it’s unlikely to affect the child’s growth.


Type 3

This goes through the end part of a long bone as well as the growth plate but does not affect the bone shaft. Like type 2, it typically affects children aged 10 or over. However, type 3 fractures are more likely to affect growth than types 1 and 2, and can cause long-term disability. Surgery is therefore very often needed.


Type 4

This goes through the growth plate, the wide portion and the end of the long bone. Like type 3, type 4 may affect the child’s growth and cause chronic disability, again necessitating surgery.


Type 5

This type of Salter-Harris fracture is much rarer than the others. It occurs when the child’s growth plate is crushed or compressed. It’s a severe injury, which can lead to the growth plate becoming too hard, stopping bone growth altogether. The limb may look uneven and crooked, with surgery being the only option.


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