Understanding Broken Bones in Children

Understanding Broken Bones in Children

Dr Kannan Kaliyaperumal, orthopaedic surgeon, talks about how to identify and treat fractures in children.

What are the common types of bone fractures in children?

Most childhood fractures result from mild to moderate trauma that happens while at play or during sports.

The arms are the most common location for fractures. Supracondylar fractures (elbow fractures or monkey bar fractures) between the ages of 4 – 7 are the most common.

If you think your child may need treatment for a bone fracture, speak to an orthopaedic specialist.

How do I differentiate a simple sprain from a broken bone?

In both a sprain and a broken bone, there is pain, swelling and difficulty moving the injured area in a normal manner. With a broken bone, there may additionally be deformity, difficulty placing weight on the area, and persistent bruising.

What are the immediate steps to take if I suspect that my child has a fracture of the bone?

First aid for fractures

Seek medical care immediately if your child displays any symptoms of a fracture.

Apply a cold compress wrapped in cloth. Stabilise the injury as soon as it happens by keeping the injured limb in the position you find it.

An orthopaedic specialist can make a diagnosis with a clinical examination and an x-ray.

How are fractures in kids treated?

A child’s growing bones are bendable and resilient. Children’s bones heal fast and remodel very well after injury.

Hence, almost 90% of kid’s fractures are treated in a cast splint to keep the fractures from moving. Stabilising the fracture allows the fracture to heal better. Sometimes, a fracture needs to be fixed surgically if it is displaced, rotated or a joint fracture. Most of the time, it is sufficient to fix some wires to hold the bone in place and apply a cast.

When a child is in a cast, they are still mobile and able to still attend school.

What is the usual recovery time after a fracture?

Fracture recovery time

A typical uncomplicated fracture in a child heals within 3 – 4 weeks. Most of the time a repeat x-ray is taken after 6 weeks.

How are child fractures different from adult fractures?

There are 2 types of fractures in adults. They are:

High-energy trauma like sports injury or road traffic accidents in younger patients.

In older or elderly patients, low energy trauma may produce fractures because the bone is osteoporotic (weak bones). The vulnerable areas are the wrist, spine & hip.

How do we treat adult fractures?

Adult fracture treatment

Adult fractures are treated differently – they may require surgery if they are displaced or angulated. Simple fractures can be treated in a cast.

More complicated fractures may need surgery to fix the fractures. This may be done with metallic plates and screws.

Osteoporotic patients who are elderly or have low bone mass need medication to build up the bone strength.

Speak to an orthopaedic surgeon if you seek treatment for a complicated bone fracture.

Article contributed by Dr Kanna Kaliyaperumal, orthopaedic surgeon at Parkway East Hospital