Child Orthopedics

Frequently Asked Questions

Have you ever heard of a growth plate coming apart? My 12-year old daughter had an MRI for a back injury. The results showed separation of the growth plate where she hurt herself. What could be causing this?

The growth plate is made up of growing bone and a cap of cartilage at the end. When the bone stops growing, the cartilage ossifies or becomes the end of the bone. At maturity when the bones stop growing, the growth plate disappears.

Growth plate separation can occur with traumatic injury or from a condition called spondylolisthesis. This term describes when one vertebra slips forward on the one below it. This usually occurs when there is a crack or tiny fracture in the supporting structure of the vertebra on top.

Research shows that extraordinary stress can break a weak growth plate. The cartilage separates from the bone allowing the bone to slip forward. It's possible the damage occurred during the injury.

Koichi Sairyo, MD, PhD, et al. Vertebral Forward Slippage in Immature Lumbar Spine Occurs Following Epiphyseal Separation, and its Occurrence is Unrelated to Disc Degeneration. In Spine. March 1, 2004. Vol. 29. No. 5. Pp. 524-527.

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