Whether they're climbing trees, tumbling down the stairs, or just roughhousing with their friends, children are a ball of boundless energy, constantly testing their limits and engaging in activities that involve high levels of risk. While this is all part of growing up and discovering the world around them, sometimes that high-energy play can lead to injuries. 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.
Children are known for their endless capacity for play. But all that running, hopping, skipping, jumping and tumbling can lead to a forearm fracture. This type of fracture can occur when a child falls onto an outstretched arm, falls directly on the forearm, or sustains a direct blow to the forearm. Children who engage in high-risk activities, such as contact sports, are more likely to sustain an arm fracture.
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.
When diagnosing a forearm fracture, the physician will begin by examining the arm, wrist, and elbow for any deformities. They will also look for swelling, tenderness, and an inability to rotate the affected arm. If any of these signs are present, an X-ray will be taken to confirm the diagnosis. In some cases, a CT scan may also be ordered to get a more detailed view of the fracture. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the next step is to develop a treatment plan. This will usually involve immobilizing the arm in a cast or splint to allow the bone to heal properly. In some cases, surgery may also be necessary to realign the bones or insert metal screws or plates to hold them in place.
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.
As with any fracture, treatment for a forearm fracture in a child depends on the severity of the break. In some cases, the bone may simply need to be immobilized in a splint or cast. However, more serious breaks may require surgery to insert pins, plates, or screws to hold the bone in place while it heals.
With prompt and appropriate treatment, most children make a full recovery from a forearm fracture without any complications.
While broken bones in children may seem like a serious injury, in many cases, a pediatric forearm fracture can be treated with conservative measures. Non-operative treatment typically involves setting the bone, also known as a closed reduction, then immobilizing the arm in a cast.
More serious fractures may require surgical management 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:
While surgery always carries some risks, it may be necessary to ensure a proper healing process.
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.
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.
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 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.
At Cast21, we have developed a new approach to pediatric orthopedic technology that is sleek, comfortable, and easy to use. The arm cast alternative is perfect for kids and teens who want to enjoy their favorite daily 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.
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.