How are broken elbows in children diagnosed?
To diagnose broken elbows in children, the doctor will carefully examine the injured area for tenderness, redness and swelling.
One or more of the following imaging techniques may also be used to get pictures of the broken bone and to check for damage to muscles or blood vessels.
- An x-ray of the elbow is the main tool used for diagnosing a broken bone. This test uses small amounts of radiation to produce images of a child’s bones.
- After the doctor puts the pieces of the broken bone in the right position, an x-ray can also help determine whether the bones in the elbow/arm are healing in the proper position.
Other diagnostic tools include:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): Some fractures (such as stress fractures), don't show up on an x-ray until a few weeks after the bone starts hurting. An MRI is a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body. These types of tests are more sensitive than x-rays and can pick up smaller fractures before they get worse.
- Computed tomography scan (CT, CAT scan): a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body.
- Bone scan: a painless procedure that uses a radioactive substance to detect changes in joints and bones and determine the cause of unexplained pain. Bone scans are useful for detecting stress fractures and toddler’s fractures, which can be less visible on x-rays.