The symptoms of hand fractures in children do not really differ from those in adults, but treatment methods are often different, simply because a childs bones are still growing, and will heal differently from those of an adult.
Signs of a Broken Bone
Some signs of a broken bone are perfectly obvious. For instance, if a bone is protruding through the skin, that is clearly a compound fracture. Other indications of broken bones can include:
- Bruising, bleeding or swelling
- Extreme pain
- Numbness, tingling, or weakness
- A joint or bone that looks as if it is misshapen or out of place
- Difficulty moving the hand
When a child or teenager breaks a bone, most likely there will be significant pain at the break site, and they will find it difficult to move the affected area. Pain and/or loss of movement mean that you should take your child to the emergency room.
Diagnosing Hand Fractures in Children
First, the doctor will examine your childs hand to determine how the bones are lining up when the hand is moved. He or she will also check for related injuries, like damage to the joints, ligaments, tendons, and the tissue under the fingernail. If it appears as though one or more bones are fractured, x-rays will be needed so that the doctor can determine how to proceed with treatment. Usually, x-rays are taken from three different angles so that the breakage can be clearly identified.
A proper diagnosis is extremely important, because a simple break can usually be treated effectively with a cast or a splint, whereas breaks that are more complex may necessitate surgery. Additionally, the bone may be broken near a growth plate. Growth plates themselves cannot be seen on x-rays, but some indications of damage may be present. If this is the case, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or another type of scan may be needed to identify damage to the growth plate area.
Children are considerably more flexible than adults, so their bones could actually bend after breaking, and then straighten out during the healing process. This is known as “remodeling,” and it is actually an advantage that a young person has – because of the remodeling process, the broken bone will require less treatment, and will heal more effectively, than the same type of break in an adult. Some types of fractures, though, may look simple, but actually cause problems that affect bone growth. This is because of the “growth points” that we mentioned previously. In children and teenagers, bone growth happens at these specific points. Often, these growth points occur near the ends of the bones, and if they are damaged, the bone could actually stop growing. This can stop a bone from developing and change the way in which it is functioned. If only a part of the growth point is harmed, then the bone could grow unevenly.
In children, it is very important that fractures be properly identified and treated. Treating a childs hand fracture will require procedures different from those used in treating adults.