Arm Fracture In Children

What is an arm fracture?

An arm fracture is a crack or break in one or more of the bones in your child's arm.

What causes an arm fracture?

The following are the most common causes of arm fractures:

  • Trauma: A direct hit to your child's arm may cause a fracture. Car and sports accidents are some examples of trauma that can cause an arm fracture.

  • Fall: The pressure when your child lands on his hands after a fall may cause his arm bone to break.

  • Stress fracture: This is a tiny fracture that happens when your child's arm muscles become tired from overuse. Stress fractures happen most often during sports when the same motion happens over and over.

What are the different types of arm fractures?

  • Nondisplaced: The bone breaks but the pieces stay in place.

  • Displaced: The bone breaks, and the pieces move out of place.

  • Open fracture: The broken bone breaks through your child's skin.

  • Salter-Harris fracture: The bone breaks through your child's growth plate.

What are the signs and symptoms of an arm fracture?

  • Arm and shoulder pain

  • Swollen and bruised arm

  • Abnormal arm position

  • Severe pain when your child moves his arm

  • Weakness or numbness in your child's arm, hand, or fingers

How is an arm fracture diagnosed?

Your child's caregiver will ask about his injury and examine him. Your child may need the following tests:

  • X-ray: An x-ray will show the type of fracture your child has.

  • CT scan: This test is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray and computer are used to take pictures of your child's arm. He may be given dye before the test. Tell caregivers if your child is allergic to iodine or seafood. He may also be allergic to the contrast dye.

  • MRI: This scan uses a powerful magnet and a computer to take pictures of your child's arm. Your child may be given dye before the test. Tell caregivers if your child is allergic to iodine or seafood. He may also be allergic to the contrast dye. Your child will need to lie still during his test. Never enter the MRI room with any metal objects. This can cause serious injury.

  • Bone scan: This is a test to look at your child's arm bones. He is given a small, safe amount of dye in an IV. Pictures are taken of his injured arm. The pictures will help caregivers see your child's arm fracture better.

How is an arm fracture treated?

Treatment will depend on what kind of fracture your child has, and how bad it is. He may need any of the following:

  • Brace, cast, or splint: A brace, cast, or splint will decrease your child's arm movement and hold the broken bones in place. This will help decrease pain, and prevent further damage to his broken bones.

  • Medicines:

    • Pain medicine: Your child may be given medicine to take away or decrease pain. Do not wait until the pain is severe before you give your child his medicine.

    • Antibiotics: This medicine is given to help prevent or treat an infection caused by bacteria.

  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist can teach your child exercises to help improve movement and decrease pain. Physical therapy can also help improve strength and decrease your child's risk for loss of function.

  • Surgery: Your child may need debridement before his surgery if he has an open fracture. Debridement is when damaged tissue is removed and the wound is cleaned. Debridement helps prevent infection and improve healing. Your child's caregiver will use pins, screws, wires, or other materials to hold the bones straight so they can heal. Your child may have pins coming out of his skin.

What are the risks of an arm fracture?

Your child's arm may not be straight, even after treatment. The nerves in his arm may be damaged, which can make his arm numb or weak. His arm may not heal properly or work as well as it did before your injury. He may have a scar if he has surgery.

When should I contact my child's caregiver?

Contact your child's caregiver if:

  • Your child has a fever.

  • Your child has new or worse trouble moving his arm.

  • You have questions or concerns about your child's injury, treatment, or care.

When should I seek immediate help for my child?

Seek help immediately or call 911 if:

  • The pain in your child's injured arm does not get better or gets worse, even after rest and medicine.

  • Your child's arm, hand, or fingers feel numb.

  • Your child's arm is swollen, red, and feels warm.

  • You see blood on your child's splint or cast.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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