Pediatric Orthopedics
Highest Level of Care for Injuries

Treating Pediatric Fractures

Our pediatric orthopedists and orthopedic surgeons treat fractures in children of all ages. University Health serves as the South Texas regional referral center for the most severe injuries.

Signs and Symptoms of a Fracture

Bumps and bruises are common in children, and so are broken bones, also known as fractures. Even if a fracture doesn’t break through the skin, there are some common signs and symptoms of fractures. These include:

  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Unusual appearance or bone deformity
  • Difficulty moving the bone 
  • Warmth, bruising or redness
  • Numbness

Most Common Fractures in Children

While we see all types of fractures in children, the most common include: 

  • Elbow fractures 
  • Femur fractures
  • Multiple fractures
  • Wrist fractures 

Treating Fractures in Children

Pediatric orthopedists must take many factors into consideration when determining the best treatment for a broken bone. Your child’s doctor will treat fractures differently depending on the severity and location of the break as well as the age of the child. 

In addition to pain management, treatment options include:

  • Brace: Some fractures need only a simple brace to protect the bone while it heals.
  • Splint or cast: This option immobilizes the bone so it can heal.
  • Traction: This treatment uses pulleys, strings, weights and a metal frame attached over or on the bed to gently stretch the muscles and tendons around the broken bone to allow the bone ends to align and heal. 
  • Surgery: During surgery, the orthopedic surgeon inserts metal pins, rods or a plate to hold the bone pieces together so they heal correctly.

Terms to Know 

  • Fracture: Broken bone
  • Closed fracture: The bone is broken but not visible through the skin.
  • Open fracture: The bone is broken and visible through the skin.
  • Growth plate: Also called the physis, the growth plate is the site where bones grow and lengthen. Fractures of the growth plate should be treated promptly to avoid permanent deformity.
  • Periosteum: This soft outer layer covering a bone, except at the joints, can be torn when a fracture occurs.
  • Cast: Made out of fiberglass or plaster, a cast wraps all the way around the broken bone. A cast must be applied carefully so swelling doesn’t make it too tight.
  • Splint: Like a cast, a splint is made out of fiberglass or plaster, but a splint only wraps part of the way around the broken bone. A splint allows for swelling without becoming too tight.
  • Reduction: An orthopedic surgeon uses this procedure to set a bone (to put the bone back into place) so it can heal correctly.
  • Closed reduction: The surgeon puts the bone back into place without using an incision. This can be done in the emergency room under sedation or sometimes in a doctor’s office.
  • Open reduction: For more complicated fractures, a surgeon will make an incision and put the bone back into place, often using metal pins, rods or plates to hold the bone pieces together. This procedure is done under general anesthesia. 
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