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What is a fracture in a child?

A fracture is a partial or complete break in the bone. When a fracture happens, it is classified as either open or closed:

  • Open (compound) fracture. The bone breaks through the skin. Or the skin has a deep wound that exposes the bone.
  • Closed (simple) fracture. The bone is broken, but there is no wound in the skin.

What causes a fracture in a child?

Fractures happen when more force is applied to the bone than the bone can absorb. Bones are weakest when they are twisted. Breaks in bones can happen from falls or trauma, or as a result of a direct hit to the body.

What are the symptoms of a fracture in a child?

Symptoms can occur a bit differently in each child. But below are the most common symptoms a child will have if he or she breaks a bone:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Obvious deformity of the bone
  • Trouble using or moving the bone in a normal manner
  • Warmth, bruising, or redness

These symptoms may seem like other health problems. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

How is a fracture diagnosed in a child?

Your child’s healthcare provider makes the diagnosis with an exam and diagnostic tests. During the exam, he or she asks about your child’s health history and how the injury happened.

Your child may also need:

  • X-rays. This test makes images of internal tissues, bones, and organs.
  • MRI. This test uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to make detailed images of organs and structures within the body. It’s done to rule out any related abnormalities of the spinal cord and nerves.
  • CT scan. This test uses X-rays and a computer to make detailed images of the body. A CT scan shows details of the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.

How is a fracture treated in a child?

Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.

An open fracture is an emergency. This is when the bone breaks through the skin. Or when the skin has a deep wound that exposes the bone. Call 911 to get medical care right away.

The goal of treatment is to control the pain, help the bone heal, and prevent complications so your child can use the fractured area again normally. Treatment may include:

  • Splint or cast. This keeps the broken bone in place while it heals.
  • Medicine. Certain medicines can ease pain.
  • Traction. This treatment gently stretches the muscles and tendons around the broken bone to allow the bone ends to align and heal. It uses pulleys, strings, weights, and a metal frame attached over or on the bed.
  • Surgery. Your child may need surgery to put certain types of broken bones back into place. S