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Patient shows off red cast for his broken elbow.

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

1. Contact your child's pediatrician or visit a Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Urgent Care Center or Emergency Department. If your child’s bone is coming through the skin, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.

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

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

2. If your child is diagnosed with a broken bone, follow 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 orthopedic 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 child's appointment.

3. If you have questions, call our fracture care team at 404-255-1933

Our orthopedic doctors know how to treat fractures.

We know how to properly set growing bones in kids and teens. If your child doesn’t need immediate medical attention, Children’s Physician Group–Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine can often accommodate your child for a same-day appointment.

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Kids are kids. Their play, sports activity and just plain running around can sometimes lead to broken bones. The first part of diagnosis is to determine—through the use of X-rays—whether 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.

  • A fracture is displaced if pieces of the bone bend or move out of proper position.
  • A fracture is 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 still 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 another doctor may say your child does have a fracture later on.

Radiology for children requires specialized knowledge.

There is more cartilage in kids’ growing bones, which can make a child’s X-ray look incomplete. It’s important to see board-certified pediatric radiologists and pediatric orthopedic providers who specialize in recognizing and treating broken bones in growing kids and teens.

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Your child’s care team will create a treatment plan designed for her needs.

Treatment options depend on:

  • The type of fracture.
  • Your child’s age and health.
  • Whether 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 may include:

  • Applying casts, a brace 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 her doctor.

Will my child need physical or occupational therapy?

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

Locate a Children’s outpatient physical therapy or occupational therapy location near you.

Locate a Children’s sports medicine physical therapy location near you.