Caring for a post operative supracondylar fracture (elbow)
What is a supracondylar fracture?
A fracture is a break in a bone. A supracondylar fracture involves a break in the humerus, the long arm bone that starts at the shoulder joint and runs down to the elbow. A supracondylar fracture is a break just above the elbow joint.
A child with a supracondylar fracture can experience:
- pain and tenderness
- abnormal movement at the fracture site.
- an X-ray will be taken of your child’s arm to confirm a fracture.
How is it treated?
Your child may go to the operating theatre to have the fracture repaired, usually using Kirschner wires (kwires). After the operation, your child will stay overnight in hospital.
One parent is welcome to stay the night to support and comfort your child. Nurses will help to control any pain with medicine either through an IV drip or oral medications such as paracetamol and ibuprofen.
A fracture of this nature is associated with a lot of swelling. Fractures and swelling cause pain.
Swelling and pain can be reduced by:
- regular oral pain medications particularly for the first 48 to 72 hours after discharge from hospital
- frequently exercising the fingers and hand for five minutes out of every waking hour for the first three days
- moving the fingers and hand will help reduce swelling by encouraging circulation in the arm and reduce joint stiffness
- when resting, elevate the arm by placing pillows under the elbow
- when mobilising always wear the sling provided to you
- ask the nursing staff if you are unsure.
Most children will find it easiest to “bird bath” with their arm in the sling. Under the arm can easily be washed by getting the child to lean forward. Gravity will cause the elbow to come forward away from the body allowing the armpit to be washed.
School and sports
Please ask the doctor when your child can return to school. Sports should be avoided as a knock to the elbow can cause broken bones to move.
Students should participate in quiet activities during lunch breaks to prevent accidental injury to the fracture site.
- Wear your sling when mobilising.
- Keep the fingers and hand moving constantly.
- Offer pain relief as required.
- Play quietly until the fracture heals.
Contact your doctor immediately or go to the nearest hospital that treats children if:
- fingers swell excessively
- fingers go blue or white
- fingers become very cold
- your child feel pins and needles or numbness in their fingers
- the arm becomes painful.
Follow up appointment
An appointment will either be given to you when your child is discharged or posted out to you.
To ensure your child receives the best possible care in an emergency, you should call 000 or go to your closest hospital that treats children.
If you have any concerns or questions please contact your doctor.
Contact Mater Children’s Private Brisbane
South Brisbane QLD 4101
Telephone: 07 3163 8111
Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Mater Doc Num: HOSP-008-06199-05
Last modified 17/11/2015.