Salter-Harris Fracture

Salter-Harris Fracture Type 2: A Common Finger Injury?

The first thing that comes into your mind when you hear the word “fractured” is broken bones or even a dislocated joint. However, there are other types of fractures that occur in the hand. These include:

Finger fractures caused by trauma such as falling down stairs, being hit with a baseball bat, etc.

Fingers fractured due to repetitive stress injuries such as working at a desk job for long hours, lifting heavy objects, etc.

Fingers fractured due to overuse injuries such as arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), osteoarthritis (OA) and other conditions.

These types of fractures are often referred to as “stress fractures”. They usually heal without any problems but they do require rehabilitation after the fact.

Most times these types of fractures will not cause any pain.

What Are Some Symptoms Of Salter-Harris Fracture?

Symptoms of a Salter-Harris fracture may vary depending upon which part of the body it occurs on. The most common symptoms are listed below:

1. Pain in the affected area – Usually there is no pain unless the bone is actually broken or displaced.

If there is no pain, then there is no need for worry and it should heal on its own.

2. Soreness – This is the bone beginning to heal and often occurs in areas where there is a lot of weight being places through the joints.

Over the counter (OTC) pain medication can be used to relive this type of pain.

3. Swelling – This typically occurs when a lot of “trauma” has occurred that causes a significant amount of bleeding inside the joints and surrounding tissues.

Swelling is an automatic bodily process in which the body tries to protect the injured area by sending more blood there.

4. Metallic taste in mouth – This occurs when there is a fracture with a large open wound near the nerves inside the mouth.

In such an instance, taking OTC pain medication may not be suggested due to the fact that it may increase the metallic taste in your mouth.

5. Inability to move the affected area – This is the biggest indicator that you have fractured a bone and should be treated as such by seeking emergency medical attention immediately.

How Are Salter-Harris Fractures Diagnosed?

If you have fallen and there is a possibility that you have fractured your finger, then go to the emergency room at your local hospital immediately or call an ambulance. Salter-Harris fractures may not be apparent at first. The x-rays can only detect a true fracture if the bones are broken. A complete evaluation is necessary in order to determine if other injuries or illnesses exist.

Once the doctor has an idea of what is going on, they will let you know the best course of action. This may vary from a simple splint or cast to surgical intervention such as drilling holes in your bone in order to reset it in place.

How Are Salter-Harris Fractures Treated?

The treatment plan for Salter-Harris fractures will vary depending on what is actually going on. These types of fractures can be very serious or they can be very minor and heal on their own in a few weeks. Only a doctor can determine the correct treatment.

The most common way of treating a Salter-Harris fracture is by the use of a cast or splint to “immobilize” the area. This prevents any more damage from occurring and allows the bone to begin the healing process.

Depending on the extent of the injury, a physical therapy program may be implemented in order to restore mobility and strength to the affected area.

Other treatment may include:

1. Surgical procedures – In some instances, the bone is either broken in too many places or the break is in a place where it cannot be reset by normal means.

In these instances, surgery may be necessary in order to place screws, steel plates or other metalwork in order to hold the bone together until it heals.

2. Medication – While most Salter-Harris fractures do not require medication in order to heal, certain medications may be implemented in order to control the pain.

These may include over the counter pills or even a prescription from your physician.

3. Immobilization – Some types of fractures, especially those to the legs or feet, often require that you stay off of them in order to heal properly.

A walking cast or wheelchair may be provided in order to increase the speed at which your bone heals.

What Is The Success Rate Of Salter-Harris Fractures?

The success rate of Salter-Harris fractures depends on how they are treated and the type of healing that takes place.

Salter-Harris fractures that are properly set and immobilized with casts or splints have a very high success rate. Many of these types of fractures heal completely within three to six weeks.

Salter-Harris fractures that involve surgery also have a high success rate, especially if the patient is in good physical condition. Once again, it will take time, but most people who have Salter-Harris fractures that are surgically repaired can expect a complete recovery as long as all of their healing periods go smoothly.

What Can I Expect After A Salter-Harris Fracture?

Once a Salter-Harris fracture has occurred, it is important that you get proper treatment as soon as possible. Ignoring a Salter-Harris fracture is bad for the healing process and can lead to more medical problems in the future.

After a successful treatment program, most people can expect their bone(s) to be completely healed within three months. However, it may take up to a year for your bone(s) to completely heal.

During this time you should be able to return to most strenuous activities. However, some limitations will need to be implemented in order to ensure that your bone(s) heals properly.

What Are The Risks Of A Salter-Harris Fracture?

As with any type of medical problem, there are many risks involved with Salter-Harris fractures. Some of the more common risks are:

1. Lack of treatment – As briefly mentioned above, it is important to get a proper diagnosis for your Salter-Harris fracture because if left untreated it can lead to a bone abnormality in that particular area.

Not treating a Salter-Harris fracture properly can also lead to other medical complications such as joint degeneration or arthritis in the area.

2. Non-Union – A non-union occurs when a bone has been broken for such a long period of time that it cannot heal properly.

This is more likely to occur with Salter-Harris fractures that have been neglected and are in the elderly or people who are in generally poor health.

3. Infection – Anytime the skin is broken there is always the risk of infection.

This is also the case with Salter-Harris fractures, especially since surgical procedures are involved. It is very important that you do not ignore signs of infection such as redness, swelling or even fever.

4. Bone death – This is a rare medical condition that occurs when the bone tissue begins to die due to lack of blood flow.

If this occurs you will have to get another surgery in order to try to save the limb (if applicable). If this occurs in the hand or the foot, it can be replaced with an artificial one.

5. Non-healing bone – Contrary to a non-union, a non-healing bone is a situation where the bone will have begun to heal, but then re-breaks at a later time due to not being strong enough to handle the stress placed on that particular limb.


Sources & references used in this article:

Growth plate injuries: Salter-Harris classification. by JH Brown, SA DeLuca – American family physician, 1992 –

Classifications in brief: Salter-Harris classification of pediatric physeal fractures by DJ Cepela, JP Tartaglione, TP Dooley, PN Patel – 2016 – Springer

Physeal injuries of the ankle in children: classification. by LS Dias, MO Tachdjian – Clinical orthopaedics and related research, 1978 –

Salter-Harris I and II fractures of the distal tibia: does mechanism of injury relate to premature physeal closure? by MT Rohmiller, TP Gaynor, J Pawelek… – Journal of Pediatric …, 2006 –

Salter-Harris Type-IV injuries of the distal tibial epiphyseal growth plate, with emphasis on those involving the medial malleolus. by JR Cass, HA Peterson – The Journal of bone and joint surgery …, 1983 –

Physeal fractures of the distal tibia and fibula (Salter-Harris type I, II, III, and IV fractures) by DA Podeszwa, SJ Mubarak – Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics, 2012 –

Magnetic resonance imaging of clinically suspected Salter–Harris I fracture of the distal fibula by K Boutis, UG Narayanan, FFT Dong, H MacKenzie… – Injury, 2010 – Elsevier

Remodeling of Salter-Harris type II epiphyseal plate injury of the distal radius by S Houshian, AK Holst, MS Larsen… – Journal of Pediatric …, 2004 –

Salter-Harris type III fracture-dislocation of the proximal humerus. by P Wang Jr, KJ Koval, W Lehman… – Journal of pediatric …, 1997 –