Your child has a forearm fracture. That means he or she has a crack or break in one or more of the bones of the forearm. The forearm is made up of 2 bones:
Radius. The bone on the thumb side of the forearm.
Ulna. The bone on the little-finger side of the forearm.
Your child may see an orthopedist for evaluation and treatment. An orthopedist is a doctor who diagnoses and treats bone and joint problems.
Types of forearm fractures
Bones can break in many ways. Common types of fractures in children are:
Greenstick. The bone bends, but doesn’t break all the way through.
Nondisplaced. The bone breaks completely, but the ends remain lined up.
Displaced. The pieces of broken bone are not lined up.
Growth plate. A break near or through the growth plate, the soft part of a bone where the bone grows as the child grows. A growth plate injury can slow growth in that bone. Growth plate injuries may be difficult to treat.
Fractures can be open (the broken bone comes through the skin). These used to be called “compound” fractures. Fractures can also be closed (the broken bone does not come through the skin).
Forearm fractures can happen when one or both of the forearm bones (the radius and ulna) are injured during a fall. Falling on an outstretched hand often leads to a forearm fracture. A direct hit to the forearm can also cause a fracture.
Bruising or discoloration of the skin
Extreme pain while putting weight or pressure on the forearm
Popping or snapping heard during the injury
Unable to move the arm normally
You may have brought your child to the emergency room for the initial treatment of the forearm fracture. A treatment plan must now be made to make sure the forearm heals properly. The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s health history and examine your child. An imaging test, such as an X-ray, will be done. Imaging tests show areas inside the body such as the bones. They give the healthcare provider more information about your child’s injury.
Your child’s treatment plan is determined by the type, location, and severity of the fracture. As instructed, your child should:
Ice the area 3 to 4 times a day for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Never put ice directly onto your child's skin. Use an ice pack or bag of frozen peas—or something similar—wrapped in a thin towel. Do this to help relieve pain and swelling.
Wear a splint (device that keeps the forearm still so it can heal) as instructed while the swelling begins to go down.
Wear a cast for 3 to 6 weeks or more depending on the severity.
Elevate the arm to reduce swelling. Keep the elbow above heart level as often as possible.
Some fractures may require closed reduction (moving broken pieces of bone back into alignment). Closed reduction is done from outside of the body and requires no incisions. For fractures of the joint, of the growth plate, or severe fractures, surgery may be necessary. During surgery, fixation devices (pins, plates, or screws) may be put into broken bone to hold it in place while it heals. These devices may need to be taken out by the doctor about 3 to 6 weeks or more after surgery.
Tingling, numbness, or pain around the cast or splint
Increasing swelling around the injured area
Fingers that change color or feel cold
Severe itching under a cast (mild itching is normal)
A cast or splint that feels too tight or too loose
Decreased ability to move fingers
Any drainage comes through or out of the end of the cast
A bad odor comes from underneath the cast
Fever as directee by your healthcare provider or:
Your child is younger than 12 weeks and has a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher because your baby may need to be seen my a healthcare provider
Your child has repeated fevers above 104°F (40°C) at any age
Your child is younger than 2 years old and their fever continues for more than 24 hours or your child is 2 years old or older and their fever continues for more than 3 days
Your child’s forearm may look different than it did before the fracture. It may look slightly crooked. This is normal. The bone is going through a process called remodeling. During remodeling, the repaired bone slowly reshapes itself. The forearm will usually straighten as the bone reshapes. This process often takes 1 to 2 years. There may also be a temporary loss of motion. This is normal. Your child’s healthcare provider will give you more information.