Testing & Diagnosis for Broken Tibia/Fibula (Shin bone/Calf) in Children

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How are tibia/fibula fractures diagnosed?

To make a broken tibia/fibula diagnosis, your child’s doctor will physically examine the injured area to check for swelling and tenderness. Imaging tests take pictures of the fracture and can reveal damage to muscles or blood vessels.


An x-ray of the lower leg is the main diagnostic tool for a tibia/fibula fracture. It is a painless test that uses small amounts of radiation to produce images of the child’s bones (including the tibia and fibula) and soft tissue.

After the doctor puts the pieces of the broken bone in the right position, an x-ray of the tibia/fibula can also help determine whether the bones are in proper alignment and whether they are healing correctly.

Other diagnostic tools include:

•   Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets,
    radiofrequencies and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.

•   Computed tomography scan (CT, CAT scan): a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a combination of x-rays
    and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically,
    of the body.

•   Bone scan: a noninvasive imaging technique that uses a radioactive substance to visualize the bones. The image
    is different from a plain x-ray or CT in that it shows bone metabolism and cell activity in the bones. It is also useful
    for detecting stress fractures and toddler’s fractures, which can be hard to see on an x-ray.

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