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Elbow anatomy and radiographic diagnosis of elbow fracture in children

Leticia Manning Ryan, MD, MPH, FAAP
Section Editor
Richard G Bachur, MD
Deputy Editor
James F Wiley, II, MD, MPH


Knowledge of anatomy, normal bony development, and radiographic features of the pediatric elbow are essential to prompt recognition and treatment of elbow injuries in children. In most instances, plain radiographs are adequate to detect fractures that pose a threat to future growth and function. On occasion, additional modalities (eg, ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging, or arthrography) are needed to identify and fully delineate elbow fractures, especially in infants and young children.

This review discusses the anatomy, plain radiographic views, and radiographic interpretation of the pediatric elbow. Findings pertinent to specific elbow fractures in children are discussed in more detail separately. (See "Evaluation and management of supracondylar fractures in children" and "Evaluation and management of condylar elbow fractures in children" and "Epicondylar and transphyseal elbow fractures in children".)


Elbow joint — The elbow is a complex hinge joint composed of three separate articulations (figure 1) [1]:

Ulnohumeral – Between the trochlea of the humerus and the olecranon of the ulna

Radiohumeral – Between the capitellum of the humerus and the radial head

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jul 14, 2017.
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