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Broken Bones in Children

Fractures in Kids Are Different Than Fractures in Adults

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Updated November 08, 2013

cast child broken bone

Broken bones in children are different from adult fractures.

Photo © www.iStockPhoto.com sports fracture

Sports are one common reason for childhood fractures.

Photo © www.iStockPhoto.com

Pediatric orthopedics is its own specialty because children have bones that are different from adult bones. As you might expect, treatment of broken bones in children is also different from the way we treat broken bones in adults. The reason for the difference in treatment is due to several factors described below.

Bones Heal Best in Kids

Children's bones have an amazing capacity for healing. The younger the child the more true this fact becomes. In young, a fracture of the femur (thigh bone) will heal easily in a large cast called a hip spica. In adults, femur fractures almost always require surgery to realign and stabilize the bone.  Healing time in children is usually measured in weeks, whereas in adults most fractures take months for healing. This ability to heal allows surgeons to treat children differently, and more often non-operatively.

Growth Plates Matter

Children's bones contain growth plates where new bones cells are quickly dividing. The presence of growth plates is an important consideration as a fracture in or around the growth plate can have significant long-term effects. Because of this, children are watched closely by their doctor as they heal.

Treatment of growth plate injuries should be done by a doctor familiar with the various methods of growth plate fracture treatment to help you determine which option is best.  Treatments range from a simple cast to surgical correction.

Bones May Bend, and Not Break

Children's bones are more flexible, and tend to bend more without breaking. This attribute explains the reason for finding both greenstick fractures and buckle fractures, injuries seen almost exclusively in the pediatric population. Greenstick fractures occur when the bone breaks on one side, like bending a fresh tree branch, but it stays in continuity on the bent side. A buckle fracture occurs when the bone buckles on one side, but it is not separated.

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