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Arm Fracture in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.

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.

Child Arm Bones

What are the different types of arm fractures?

  • Nondisplaced means the bone cracked or broke but stayed in place.
  • Displaced means the 2 ends of the broken bone separated.
  • Comminuted means the bone cracked or broke into several pieces.
  • Open means the broken bone went through your child's skin.
  • Greenstick fracture means the bone cracks but does not break all the way through.
  • Buckle (torus) fracture means one side of the bone buckles when pressure is applied to the other end of the bone.

What are the signs and symptoms of an arm fracture?

  • Arm and shoulder pain
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Abnormal arm position or shape
  • Severe pain when your child moves his or her arm
  • Weakness or numbness in your child's arm, hand, or fingers

How is an arm fracture diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will ask about the injury and examine your child. An x-ray may show the type of fracture your child has. He or she may need more than one x-ray, or another x-ray after several days have passed.

How is an arm fracture treated?

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

  • A support device , such as a brace, cast, or splint may be needed to hold the broken bones in place. It will decrease his or her arm movement and allow it to heal. Do not remove your child's device.
  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him or her. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children younger than 6 months without direction from a healthcare provider.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to give your child and how often to give it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines your child uses to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your child's doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your child's healthcare provider how to give this medicine safely.
  • Closed reduction may be done to put your child's bones back into the correct position without surgery.
  • Open reduction surgery may be needed to put your child's bones back into the correct position. An incision is made and the bones are put back in the correct position. This may include the use of wires, pins, plates, or screws.

How can I manage my child's symptoms?

  • Apply ice on your child's arm for 15 to 20 minutes every hour or as directed. Use an ice pack, or put crushed ice in a plastic bag. Cover it with a towel. Ice helps prevent tissue damage and decreases swelling and pain.
  • Elevate your child's arm above the level of his or her heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop his or her arm on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.
    Elevate Arm
  • Have your child rest his or her arm as much as possible. Do not let your child put pressure on his or her arm or use his or her arm to lift anything. Ask his or her healthcare provider when he or she can return to sports and other activities.
  • Take your child to physical therapy as directed. A physical therapist teaches your child exercises to help improve movement and strength, and to decrease pain.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child's pain gets worse, even after he or she rests and takes medicine.
  • Your child's arm, hand, or fingers feel numb.
  • Your child's skin over the fracture is swollen, cold, or pale.
  • Your child's arm is swollen, red, and feels warm.
  • Your child cannot move his or her arm, hand, or fingers.

When should I call my child's doctor?

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child's brace or splint becomes wet, damaged, or comes off.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

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 healthcare providers 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.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.