What Should I Do If My Child Has a Broken Bone?

If you suspect your child has a broken bone, it’s important to get them care quickly so that their bones can heal properly.

1. Contact your pediatrician or visit a Children's Urgent Care Center or Emergency DepartmentIf your child's bone is coming through the skin, call 911 or go to your nearest Emergency Department.

You should consider taking your child to the emergency room if any of the following are true:

  • The skin is not intact (i.e., the bone has pierced through the skin)
  • Your child feels numbness or tingling in the broken/injured area
  • You cannot control your child's pain

2. If your child is diagnosed with a broken bone, follow your doctor's orders.

  • It’s important to seek early treatment for all fractures, as children’s bones heal quickly and may not be in the correct place. 
  • Visit a pediatric orthopaedic specialist or pediatric hand specialist* approximately five to seven days after the injury. Bring any X-rays you may have on a CD to your appointment.

*Pediatric hand surgeons who perform services at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta are independent providers and are not our employees.

3. If you have questions, call Fracture Care at 404-785-4913.

Your safety is our priority

Because the health and safety of our patients, visitors and staff is a priority, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is:

  • Screening all patients and visitors for illness including a temperature check. No sick visitors will be allowed in our facilities.
  • Allowing two caregivers with each patient. No other family or visitors are allowed.
  • Requiring everyone to wear a mask at all times during their visit.
  • Practicing social distancing by staying 6 feet away from other patients and visitors.
  • Enhancing cleaning measures.

How Do Doctors Diagnose a Bone Fracture?

Kids are kids. Their play, sports activity and just plain running around can sometimes lead to broken bonesThe first part of diagnosis is to determine, through the use of X-rays, if a bone is fractured and, if so, what type of fracture it is.

What is a bone fracture?

A fracture is a break in the bone. In other words, a broken bone and a bone fracture are the same thing.

  • The fracture is called “displaced” if pieces of the bone bend or move out of proper position.
  • The fracture is called “nondisplaced” if the bones stay in place.

We specialize in pediatric fracture care for infants, children, adolescents and young athletes. Our team uses X-rays to help diagnose fractures. While not all breaks are easy to spot, our board-certified pediatric radiologists are trained to quickly and accurately diagnose injured bones.

Why did my child’s broken bone not show up on the X-ray?

Not every fracture shows up on an X-ray, especially nondisplaced fractures (bones that stay in place). Children can have broken bones and yet have normal X-rays. It is hard to see a fracture if it occurs on the bone’s growth plate. Since fractures can be hard to see at first, the doctor may tell you that your child’s X-ray looks normal but treat your child in case the fracture shows up on an X-ray later.

As a fracture heals, your child’s body sends extra calcium, bone cells and blood vessels to rebuild the bone. After seven to 10 days of rebuilding, there will be enough calcium around the fracture so that it shows up on an X-ray. This is why one doctor may say that your child does not have a fracture, and then later, another doctor says your child does have one.

 

How Do Orthopedic Specialists Treat a Bone Fracture?

Your child's care team will create treatment plan designed for your child's needs. Treatment options depend on:

  • The type of fracture
  • Your child's age and health
  • Whether or not there are any other injuries

Your child’s doctor will want to prevent the broken bone from moving so that it can heal. This will reduce damage to the tissue around the broken bone, including nearby blood vessels and nerves. Ways to prevent the bone from moving might include:

  • Applying casts or splints.
  • Inserting hardware like screws, rods, plates or pins into the broken bone during surgery. If there is hardware outside the body, it will be removed when the bone heals.

Fractures can take from several weeks to several months to heal. The time it takes to heal depends on:

  • The type of fracture
  • Which bone is broken
  • How severe the injury is
  • The age of the child

Pain usually stops long before the fracture is healed. Your child will be able to begin some activity before the fracture heals completely. Even after removing the cast or splint, your child may need to limit activity until the bone is solid enough to use normally.

If you have concerns about your child, call his or her doctor.

Will my child need physical therapy?

Depending on the type and severity of the fracture, your child's doctor may recommend physical therapy after the bone has healed to help regain strength and movement.

Locate a Children's outpatient physical therapy location near you

Locate a Children's sports medicine physical therapy location near you