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Broken bones in children

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Updated: 1/14/2003 11:29 am
Broken bones are the fourth most common injury among children under age six, mostly caused by falls or during car accidents. Young bones are more flexible and are better able to absorb shock than adults' bones, but because the bones are still growing, they're more vulnerable to damage to the plates at the ends of the bones that regulate future growth. Just because a child can move the bone doesn't necessarily rule out a fracture. Take the child to a doctor, emergency room, or urgent-care center. If the child appears to have a broken leg, don't move him or her, and call an ambulance. Observe for signs of shock. If there's a dislocation, rather than a break, don't try to reset it yourself. Treat it the same as you would a fracture. If the bone is protruding, place pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding, but don't try to push the bone back underneath the skin. At the hospital, a child with a suspected broken bone will be X-rayed (ECKS-rade) to determine the extent of the damage. Usually, a plaster or fiberglass cast or an immobilizing splint will be used. If the child has a displaced fracture, an orthopedic (ohr-thoe-PEE-dic) surgeon may have to realign the bones. After being put in a cast, if the child notices an increase in pain or numbness, there may be swelling, so call the doctor immediately. A larger cast may be needed.

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