Fractures | Diagnosis and Treatment

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How are fractures diagnosed?

Children's bones are softer than adult bones, which enable them to heal more quickly. This is good news for recovery, but it also means that your child should get medical and/or surgical attention quickly to ensure that the bone is kept in the correct position as it heals. Your child’s doctor will closely examine the injured area for tenderness, redness and swelling and will order diagnostic imaging tests.

Diagnostic testing for fractures may include:

How are fractures treated?

Specific treatment for a fracture is based on the type of fracture, its severity and your child's age. In most cases, fractures in children are treated with a splint or cast, which immobilize the injured bone(s) to promote healing and reduce pain and swelling.

Splints

Doctors will usually put a splint on a newly broken bone because a cast can be too tight and can affect circulation. They will replace it with a cast once the swelling has gone down. Splints are also used for minor fractures.

Casts

Casts are stronger than splints and provide more protection to the injured area. Casts have two layers: a soft inside layer that rests against the skin and a hard outer layer that prevents the injured bone from moving.

Other treatments for fractures include:

  • medication to control pain and to prevent infection if the fracture is open
  • surgery to put broken bones back into place (The surgeon may also insert metal rods or pins into the bone or outside the body to hold bone fragments in place to allow alignment and healing.)
  • closed reduction, a non-surgical procedure used to reduce and set the fracture (Using an anesthetic, the doctor realigns the bone fragments from outside the body and holds them in place with a cast or splint.)
  • traction to correct broken or dislocated bones by using a gentle and steady pulling motion in a specific direction (This allows the bone ends to align and heal, and, in some cases, reduces painful muscle spasms.)
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