Forearm Fractures in Children

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If you are the parent of a child, there is a good chance that you will have to deal with a forearm fracture. Arm fractures are a common injury in children that occurs when one or both of the bones in your child's forearm breaks. The forearm is the most commonly broken bone in children, accounting for about one-third of all pediatric fractures.¹ 

If your child suffers a forearm fracture, it is important that you know what to do to ensure a quick and safe recovery. In this article, we will discuss the causes of pediatric forearm fractures, how to treat them, and what you can do to help your child heal.

What Causes a Child to Break Their Forearm?

Arm fractures can occur from a fall, direct blow, or twisting injury. The most common cause of forearm fractures in children occurs during play when a child falls onto an outstretched hand. Children who engage in high-risk activities, such as contact sports, are more likely to sustain an arm fracture. 

Symptoms of a Broken Forearm in Children

Broken bones are a fact of life for many active children, and symptoms can vary depending on the type and location of the break. In most cases, a child will experience pain, swelling, and bruising in the affected area. It may also be difficult or impossible to move the arm. If the break is severe, there may also be an obvious deformity or an open wound over the fracture site. 

Most Common Types of Forearm Fractures

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Torus fracture: a type of injury that can occur in children and adolescents. It is also known as a "buckle fracture". This type of fracture occurs when one side of the topmost layer of bone is compressed. This can cause the other side of the bone to bend away from the growth plate. A torus fracture is considered to be a stable fracture. This means that the broken pieces of bone are still in position and have not separated apart.

Metaphyseal fracture: is a break that occurs near either end of the bone called the metaphysis. Metaphyseal fractures are most common in children and adolescents because their bones are softer and easier to break. 

Greenstick fracture: is a type of fracture that occurs when the bone is bent and breaks on one side but does not completely break through. Greenstick fractures are most common in children because their bones are softer and more flexible than adult bones. 

Galeazzi fracture: is an injury that affects the two bones that come together at the wrist, the radius, and ulna. There is usually a displaced fracture in the radius, with the ulna dislocated at the wrist. 

Monteggia fracture: this is a type of fracture that affects both bones of the forearm where the ulna is fractured, and the radius is dislocated. This is a very serious injury and requires urgent care. If left untreated, Monteggia fractures can cause permanent damage to the nerves and blood vessels in the forearm.

Growth plate fracture: occurs at the point where a bone is growing. The growth plate is responsible for the lengthening and shaping of bones during childhood and adolescence. When a growth plate fracture occurs, it can disrupt the normal process of bone growth, and prompt attention is required. 

Treatment for Forearm Fractures in Children

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If your child has suffered a forearm fracture, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. The doctor will likely order an X-ray to assess the extent of the injury and determine the best course of treatment. 

With prompt and appropriate treatment, most children make a full recovery from a forearm fracture without any complications. 

Nonsurgical Treatment Options

While a broken bone may seem like a pretty serious injury, in many cases a pediatric forearm fracture can be treated with conservative measures. Nonsurgical treatment typically involves setting the bone, also known as a closed reduction, then immobilizing the arm in a cast. 

Surgical Treatment Options

However, more serious fractures may require surgery to realign the bones where metal rods or screws will be inserted. While most fractures can be treated without surgery, there are some cases where it is necessary:

  • In cases of an open fracture, where the bone has broken through the skin.
  • The fracture is unstable, meaning that the ends of the broken bones will not stay aligned.
  • If the bone is broken into many pieces, also called a comminuted fracture.
  • The bones cannot be aligned through manipulation alone, also known as a closed reduction. 
  • The bones have already begun to heal in an improper position. 

While surgery always carries some risks, it may be necessary to ensure a proper healing process.

Complications

Forearm fractures are relatively common in children and usually heal without any complications. In fact, only a small percentage of all forearm fractures in children result in any sort of complication.² Rare complications from a forearm fracture in children can include:

Malunion: is a medical condition that occurs when bones heal in an abnormal position, with forearm loss of motion being the most common complication. 

Nonunion: in extremely rare cases, the distal radius fails to heal correctly.

Refracture: is a break that occurs in the same bone that has previously been broken, occurring in only 5% of pediatric patients.² 

Nerve damage: this can lead to numbness, tingling, or weakness in the affected arm. These symptoms are alleviated after fracture reduction. 

Treatment for these complications usually requires a combination of medication, physiotherapy, and surgery. It is important to remember that the risk of complications increases with the severity of the fracture. Therefore, it is always best to seek medical attention as soon as possible after your child sustains a forearm fracture. 

Recovery Time for Common Fractures

Children typically heal more quickly than adults, and a broken arm typically heals within four to eight weeks. This is due to the fact that children's bodies produce more collagen, which helps to repair tissue damage. As a result, kids are able to bounce back from injuries relatively quickly. However, the recovery process can vary depending on the age of the child, the location of the break, and the severity of the injury. 

Choosing a Cast for Your Child's Arm Fracture

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Plaster Casts

Plaster casts have been used to treat broken bones for centuries. Although Plaster casts are cheaper, they are heavy and bulky. Although plaster casts are not always the most comfortable option, they are an effective way to treat fractures and allow patients to heal properly.

Fiberglass Casts

Fiberglass casts offer a number of advantages over plaster casts. And even though they are more expensive than plaster casts, they are stronger and lighter, and they can be made waterproof. However, the process of applying a fiberglass cast can be just as tedious as a plaster cast, and fiberglass casts still have many of the same disadvantages including itchiness and discomfort. 

3D Printed Casts

A newer casting option is a 3D-printed cast. These casts are made using an imaging scan of the affected area to create a precise fit. They can also be customized with different colors and designs. The downside is that not every clinic has access to expensive, 3D printing technology. And for people who do have access, the cost of a 3D-printed cast can be prohibitive. 

Cast21

At Cast21, we have developed a new approach to orthopedic technology that is sleek, comfortable, and easy to use. The cast alternative is perfect for kids and teens who want to enjoy their favorite activities while they heal from an injury. The cast is completely waterproof, so children can go swimming, participate in sports (with their doctor’s permission), and play with their friends without feeling restricted. Cast21 is available in a variety of fun colors and patterns that kids will love. And the best part? The process of applying

the cast alternative can be completed in just minutes, giving both patients and doctors a hassle-free experience. 

Request a Cast21 Sample

Cast21 is a new type of cast alternative that is transforming the way that young patients heal from broken bones. If your child is healing from a broken bone, ask your doctor if Cast21 is right for your child’s injury. For questions or to request a Cast21 sample, please feel free to contact us.

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Citations

  1. Lyons, Ronan A, et al. “Children's Fractures: A Population Based Study.” Injury Prevention, BMJ Publishing Group Ltd, 1 June 1999, https://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/5/2/129. 
  1. Chia, Benjamin, et al. “Complications of Pediatric Distal ... - Acreditacion-Fmc.org.” Complications of Pediatric Distal Radius and Forearm Fractures, https://acreditacion-fmc.org/ICL64/pdf/ICL_chapter_44.pdf.