Pediatric Orthopaedics

Broken Bones

Broken Bones

The Identification and Treatment of Broken Bones in Children

The Difference Between the Bones of Children and Adults

Children go through several stages of growth before they finally reach adulthood, and their bones change along with them. Baby's bones are softer and more flexible, so they can bend some to be able to pass through their mother's birth canal. Then, as they grow older, they firm up considerably, but they still stay softer than an adult's bones are. Children also have a difference in their growth plates that are at each end of their bones. They stay soft and open throughout their childhood, but in adults, they are completely closed. They begin to seal up after puberty has taken place, and the genetically predetermined height has been achieved.

Identifying Broken Bones in a Child

Broken bones are very painful, so usually a child will cry out if it happens. They might also cradle the injury or not want the area that is injured to be touched. There are also outward signs that should be looked for, such as redness, bruising, or bone fragments piercing through the skin. Some severe breaks can cause the area to appear disfigured or bent in an awkward position. Since children's bones are still soft, the most common type of fracture in them is the green-stick fracture. This is where the bone only breaks halfway through and bends at an angle. This type of break is not always visible externally, so it is best to take the child to the hospital for an x-ray if they display symptoms of an injury.

First Aid for a Child's Broken Bones

It is very important to remember that time is of the essence if a broken bone occurs. Bone fragments from a fracture can lacerate the surrounding tissue and cause further damage, so a child with a broken bone must be taken to a hospital emergency room as quickly as possible. If bone fragments are piercing through the skin, then it is best to call an ambulance for transportation. They are better equipped to handle severe injuries such as this. While waiting for them to arrive, keep the child as calm as possible, but do not move them because that could cause further damage. If the break is not as complex, or ambulance transportation is not possible, then a splint must be made to stabilize the broken bone before the child is driven to the emergency room. This can be done by placing a flat, sturdy object next to, or directly beneath, the break. Do not attempt to realign the break. Then, take a belt or several strips of material and gently tie the flat object in place. Use another long strip of material to make a sling if the break is on an arm. Two sticks can be tied together to make a crutch if the break is in a leg bone, and the child is too large to be carried to the car for transport to the hospital.

Further Treatment

After a doctor stabilizes the broken bone at the hospital, a splint or cast is put on, but this is not the end of the treatment. Hospitals only handle emergency stabilization of an injury. For further extended care and monitoring of the injury, a pediatric orthopedic doctor is needed. This type of doctor specializes in children's bone health, so they can monitor the bone's healing process over the several months that it takes to completely mend to be sure that it heals properly.