Ah, kids. They trip and fall a million times to always get back on their feet. But sometimes things can be as scary as a broken bone protruding from the skin and a weeping heir that won’t move. Whether you have a little one that’s been there or you want to prevent them from experiencing it, you came here to learn more about common child fractures. And this is what you’ll get. Read on to find out what injuries can befall your offspring, ways to diagnose them, and everything in between. Let’s get started.
Why do fractures occur and how are they diagnosed?
Fractures in children and adults happen for one and the same reason: the bone is put on so much force that it simply cannot handle it. It’s even weaker when you twist it. A direct kick or blow to the body, trauma, and falls are the way to get such an injury.
Kids love to jump, hop, run, and tumble until they wear themselves out. Caught in the fun, they can end up facing the ground, with bruises all over their bodies. But at times the problem extends beyond the black-and-blue marks and into a more serious issue.
Here are some symptoms to watch out for:
- Swelling and pain in the affected area
- Redness, bruising, or warmth around the injured area
- Difficulty moving or using the troubled limb
- Deformity in the affected area
Now, the best way to tell that a fracture has occurred is to undergo a physical examination. The orthopaedic will ask a few questions about how the injury happened and will run diagnostic procedures such as a CT scan, MRI or X-ray.
The latter is a painless and quick test done particularly to the bones. It delivers images of the inside of your body. CT is computerised tomography which couples computer processing and an X-ray. And finally, MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging and uses a computer, radio waves, and magnets to produce pictures of the body. It’s up to the orthopaedic to decide which test to run to diagnose your kid.
What types of fractures are there?
First of all, there are plenty of fractures that are divided into different categories. The main ones are open, closed, displaced, and non-displaced. An open fracture occurs when parts of the bone penetrate the skin and cause an open wound. Respectively, a closed fracture is when the bone does not puncture the skin.
Now, in a displaced fracture, the affected bone breaks into pieces and moves out of alignment; the ends are no longer lined up straight. When it comes to a non-displaced one, despite that the bone may crack, proper alignment is maintained.
And now, let’s go over some of the other types of injuries that affect the bones:
- Complete – when a bone has been broken in such a way that the troubled parts are separated from each other.
- Incomplete – ruptures in the bone where the problematic areas are not moved apart from one another.
- Compression – this is when the bone is squashed as a result of which it appears flatter and wider.
- Oblique – the breakage occurs diagonally across the bone.
- Spiral – the breakage winds across the bone in a continuous curve.
- Transverse – the break happens in a straight line.
- Segmental – the bone is broken in two places, which creates a “floating” piece.
- Comminuted – the breakage affects three or more pieces of the bone; there are fragments in the fracture area.
- Stress fracture – a small crack in the child’s bones.
What are some common child fractures?
Forearm fractures are predominant in children, accounting for half of all kids’ injuries altogether. Here we will explain why. The forearm has two long bones called the ulna and the radius. The former resides on the side where the little finger is positioned and the latter is situated on the side of the thumb. At the ends of each bone sits the connective tissue that goes by the name cartilage. These areas are known as the growth plates. In children, they are open and softer than the adult bone, which allows for the tissue to increase in size. When a youngster is fully grown, the plates become hard.
Now, these types of injuries can occur in different areas of the radius and ulna. One such area is the wrist. Because it is often used to break falls, it can be extremely vulnerable. When landing with one’s hands outstretched, the palms receive more pressure than they can take, which leads to an injury.
Another offender is a fracture occurring in the elbow, right where the end of the humerus bone sits.
Here is a breakdown of the various types of forearm injuries that can ensue:
- Buckle fracture (also known as torus fracture). The breakage occurs on one side of the bone. This one belongs to the group of incomplete fractures.
- Growth plate fracture. Like we already explained, this part of the human skeleton is the last to harden. It is no wonder then that the injury in question is exclusive to kids, as the cartilage is fragile and therefore prone to injuries.
- Greenstick fracture. The bone is not separated. This is an incomplete fracture which normally affects kids under the age of 10.
- Monteggia fracture. It is when both the ulna and the radius are affected. One is dislocated at the top and the other is broken. Without a doubt, the injury is quite serious and needs to be addressed urgently.
- Galeazzi fracture. This one affects both forearm bones as well. It manifests itself in a dislocated ulna and radios with a displaced fracture. Again, it’s a serious issue.
- Metaphyseal fracture. The shaft of the bone is punctured around its lower or upper portion, but the growth plate is not affected.
How long does it take for a child bone to heal?
If we had to put a timeframe on it, we’d say anywhere between three and six weeks, depending on the type of fracture and the child’s age. Some serious injuries might need ten weeks to get better. That is, different bones have different rates of healing. While no one can tell exactly how long it is going to take for the fracture to diminish, your doctor can give you an approximate span of healing.
Needless to say, there are some additional factors. If a cast is applied to the affected area, it is vital to keep it dry at all times. Some are waterproof but others are not.
Can a fracture heal without a cast?
Yes. The body’s self-healing mechanisms work regardless of whether or not there is a cast over the affected area. The thing is unless a doctor immobilizes the injured pieces, there is a risk of them healing with a deformity, and you don’t want that to happen.
That said, some types of fractures do not require a cast. Take for instance toes and fingers. As long as the troubled area is kept from moving and the broken bones are aligned properly, it’s going to be okay. Some of these injuries can be fixed by using support such as splints. Another examples are rib and collarbone fractures – you just need to wait for nature to do its thing.