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What is Panner Disease?

Panner disease is a derangement of normal bone growth that affects the capitellum of the elbow, which is a rounded eminence of the humerus (arm bone) that forms part of the elbow joint. The condition is usually seen in young children who participate in sports. Elbow pain around the outside area of the elbow is a characteristic feature.

What are the Causes of Panner Disease?

Stress on the capitellum and surrounding cartilage is considered as one of the primary causes of Panner disease. Overuse of the elbow that can occur from participation in activities such as baseball, handball, and gymnastics resulting in disrupted blood supply to the capitellum, which is one of the growth centers in the bone. This in turn results in resorption of the capitellum leading to softening and collapsing of the surrounding bone.

What are the Symptoms of Panner Disease?

The most prevalent symptom of Panner disease is a pain in the outer part of the elbow at the capitellum. Other signs and symptoms include:

  • Stiffness in the elbow
  • Elbow swelling
  • Limited range of motion
  • Elbow extension limitation

Diagnosis of Panner Disease

Your doctor will review your symptoms, and medical history and perform a thorough physical examination to check for a range of motion, adequate blood flow, stability, and strength of the elbow.  The diagnostic tests that may be ordered include:

  • X-rays: This study uses electromagnetic beams to produce images of the bones and can detect areas of resorption.
  • MRI Scan: This is an imaging study that uses a large magnetic field and radio waves to detect any damage to the soft tissues. 

Treatment for Panner Disease

Panner disease is usually a self-limiting condition and conservative, symptomatic treatments will resolve the condition. The various options include:

  • Application of ice or cold packs to the elbow for 15 minutes every 1–2 hours
  • Pain medications
  • Reduced use or immobility of the elbow for 1-2 weeks 
  • Physical therapy to aid with arm-stretching and strengthening

If there is persistent pain or loss of elbow extension, surgery is indicated.

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