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Forearm Fractures in Children

Alternative name: Broken Arm

What is a forearm fracture?

Forearm fractures (or broken arms) account for the majority of fractures in children. The forearm is made up of two bones: the radius and the ulna. A child can break one or both of these bones, particularly when falling on an outstretched arm. The most common forearm fracture is to the wrist-end of the radius.

If you suspect your child has a broken forearm see a doctor immediately. Children's bones heal quickly so it is important that a doctor sets the bones as soon as possible after the fracture occurs.

What are the signs of a forearm fracture?

Normally a forearm fracture is the result of an accident or injury. Signs include:

  • Extreme pain in the forearm
  • Inability to move or rotate the forearm
  • Swelling
  • Deformity near the elbow, forearm, or wrist
  • Tenderness around the forearm

What causes a forearm fracture?

  • Falling on an outstretched arm
  • A hard hit to the forearm
  • Falling from a height

How does a doctor tell if a patient has a forearm fracture?

Your doctor will take some of the following steps to see if your child has a broken forearm:

  • Talk with the patient about how the arm became hurt
  • Do a physicial examiniation of the arm to feel the bones and test that circulation and nerves are not damaged
  • X-ray of the forearm

How is a forearm fracture treated?

Under sedation the doctor can realign or gently push the bone back into place, this is called "reducing" the fracture. If the bone has broken through the skin, the "reducing" will have to take place in the operating room where the risk of infection is greatly reduced.

Surgery may be required to set the bone if:

  • The bone has broken through the skin
  • The bone has started to heal at an unusual angle
  • The bone can not be pushed back to the right position by hand

After the doctor has set and aligned the bones, pins and/or a cast may be used to keep the bones in place.

Depending on the type of break the healing process may take between three and ten weeks.

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