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Leg Fracture In Children


What is a leg fracture?

A leg fracture is a break in any of the 3 long bones of your child's leg. The femur is the largest bone and goes from your child's hip to his knee. The fibula and tibia are the 2 bones in your child's lower leg that go from the knee to the ankle. Your child may have a Salter-Harris fracture, which is when a bone breaks through a growth plate. Growth plates are found at the ends of your child's long bones, and help to regulate bone growth.

Child Leg Bones

What causes a leg fracture?

A leg fracture may be caused by a fall, car accident, or sports injury. Leg fractures are commonly seen in small children learning to walk and are known as a toddler's fracture. This is a twisting injury that causes a fracture of the tibia and is due to a toddler's unsteady walk. Stress fractures are caused by regularly doing sports or physical training.

What are the signs and symptoms of a leg fracture?

  • Pain that worsens when your child moves his leg
  • A lump, swelling, or bruise at the site of the fracture
  • Trouble walking, lifting, or putting weight on the injured leg
  • Abnormal leg position or shape

How is a leg fracture diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will examine your child's leg. The provider may touch areas of your child's leg to see if he or she has decreased feeling. The provider will check for any open breaks in the skin. He or she may check your child's ability to move his or her leg. Your child may need an x-ray, CT scan, or MRI. Your child may be given contrast liquid to help the fracture show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if your child has ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Your child should not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if your child has any metal in or on his or her body.

How is a leg fracture treated?

Treatment will depend on the kind of fracture your child has. Your child may need any of the following:

  • A cast or brace may be placed on your child's leg to decrease movement and hold the broken bones in place. These may help decrease pain and prevent further bone damage.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask how to safely give this medicine to your child.
  • 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. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's 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.
  • Closed reduction is surgery to put your child's bones back into the correct position without surgery.
  • Open reduction surgery may be done to put your child's bones back into the correct position. This may include the use of special wires, pins, plates or screws. These help keep the broken pieces lined up so your child's leg can heal correctly.
  • Traction may be needed if your child's bones broke into two pieces. Traction pulls on the bones to pull them back into place. A pin may be put in your child's bone or cast and hooked to ropes and a pulley. Weight is hung on the rope to help pull on the bones so they will heal correctly.

What can I do to help care for my child's leg fracture?

  • Have your child rest as much as possible and get plenty of sleep.
  • Apply ice on your child's leg 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 leg above the level of his or her heart as often as possible. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your child's leg on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.
  • Have your child use crutches as directed. Crutches will help your child walk and take some weight off the injured leg while it heals.
  • 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 has increased pain in his injured leg that does not go away, even after taking medicine.
  • Your child's cast gets wet or damaged.
  • Your child's leg or toes are numb.
  • Your child's skin or toenails below the injured leg become swollen, cold, white, or blue.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child's cast or brace is too tight.
  • There are new blood stains or a bad smell coming from under the cast.
  • Your child has new or worsening trouble moving his or her leg.
  • 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.

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