Broken Bones

Also known as: bone fractures, fractures.

What are broken bones?

Broken bones, or fractures, are very common in children and occur when excessive force is applied to a bone. They can occur in several different ways; some fractures break the bone completely, other bones may just show a crack. There are different types of fractures which include a greenstick fracture (common in children) where the fracture is on one side of the bone and the other side bends; simple, a stable fracture where the bones break into two pieces and stay aligned; an open (or compound) fracture where the broken bone punctures the skin; closed fracture where the skin remains intact; a transverse fracture with a horizontal fracture line, an oblique fracture with an angled pattern, a spiral fracture, or a comminuted fracture where the bone shatters into several pieces and others.

What causes broken bones? 

Fractures commonly occur following falls, sports injuries and car accidents (rarely in children does having osteoporosis give rise to bone fractures). In children 40% of fractures occur in the forearm.

What are the symptoms of broken bones? 

Common symptoms include swelling, bruising, tenderness/pain, numbness, tingling, and trouble moving the limb or limb deformity.

What are broken bone care options? 

Broken bones must be set back to their correct position. Setting a bone is called “reduction”, which may be “closed” (without surgery) or “open” (with surgery) where hardware is used to keep the fracture stable for healing to occur. After setting most fractures are kept in place by casts or splints, slings or braces that hold the bones in alignment and limit movement until they can heal.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 5/22/2018 11:26:32 AM


Craig Spurdle, MD of Nicklaus Children's Hospital is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon with the Orthopedic Surgery Program.

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