Forearm fractures are typically the result of a fall and quite common in children of all ages. The forearm is made up of two bones: the radius (outside of the elbow) and ulna (long bone in the forearm). There are growth areas at the top and bottom ends of the forearm. The bottom growth areas near the wrist experience the most growth and are also more likely to be injured.
What is a Monteggia fracture?
A Monteggia fracture is a common arm injury that occurs when a child reaches out a hand to break a fall. The fracture is in the ulna, along with a dislocation of the radiocapitellar joint, which helps move the forearm. The force of the fall, paired with the fracture, forces the head of the radius to dislocate from the elbow joint.
How is a broken arm treated?
A simple forearm fracture is typically treated with a sling, ice and rest, but more complicated breaks may need a cast or surgery to help realign the broken bone. If a fracture moves within the cast into a position that can decrease future function, your child’s doctor may recommend surgery to place a temporary rod in either the radius or ulna. The rods stay inside the bone for approximately three to six months and are removed surgically.
Broken arms in older children and teens often require more than a cast for the following reasons:
- Older children have less growth left. The bones must heal straight to help make sure they can properly use their arms in the future.
- The lining around older bones is not as thick, which makes it easier for a broken bone to move around in the cast and not heal well.
- Older children have bigger, stronger muscles than younger children. Muscles are more likely to cause the fracture pieces to move around in the cast, disrupting healing.
Elbow injuries are common in children, however diagnosing an elbow injury in a young child can be difficult since a young child’s elbow joints are mainly cartilage, making injuries hard to spot on an X-ray. The elbow also has many growth centers that may be injured during a fall. These growth centers ossify (turn to bone) as a child grows and matures, making a child’s elbow X-rays at different ages look very different. Talk to your child’s doctor if you’re concerned about pain.
What if my child’s elbow is broken?
Elbow fractures are usually caused by a child falling while playing and injuring one of three bones: the humerus (upper arm bone), radius or ulna.
Elbow fractures often require surgery because:
- The fractured pieces are very separate from each other and would heal poorly if left in this position.
- The fracture crosses into the elbow joint and the bones need to be aligned as perfectly as possible to prevent future arthritis.
At Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, our pediatric surgical experts are trained in treating elbow injuries in children from birth to age 21.
What are the different types of elbow injuries?
This content is general information and is not specific medical advice. Always consult with a doctor or healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about the health of a child. In case of an urgent concern or emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department right away. Some physicians and affiliated healthcare professionals on the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta team are independent providers and are not our employees.