Children's Hospital Colorado

Broken Bones

Urgent or Emergency Care?

If you believe your child needs immediate attention and you have concerns for a life-threatening emergency, call 911. Not sure what counts as urgent and what's an emergency when your child is sick or injured? When it can't wait, know where to take your kids.

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What is a broken bone or fracture?

Broken bones (also called fractures) are very common in children.  They can occur anywhere from a simple fall on the playground to more serious accidents.  Sports are also a common cause of fractures in kids and teenagers. 

Any injury where there is a concern for fracture should be immediately seen by a doctor. See a map of our emergency and urgent care locations.

What signs and symptoms are concerning for a fracture?

Possible signs and symptoms of a fracture (broken bone) are:

  • A snapping or grinding noise during an injury, fall, collision, etc.
  • Swelling, bruising and tenderness of the injured area
  • The injured body part hurts when moved, touched, or walked on
  • The injured part looks deformed
  • In severe breaks, the broken bone might poke through the skin.  This is called an open fracture (commonly referred to as a compound fracture).

What should I do if I think my child has a broken bone?

  • Seek immediate medical attention.
  • Keep the injured body part in the position you found it (moving around can make it worse).
  • Put a splint on the extremity (arm, leg, etc.) in order to protect it and prevent further motion.
  • Apply an ice pack wrapped in cloth.
  • Do not allow your child to eat in case surgery is required.

How is a fracture diagnosed?

In order to diagnose a fracture, x-rays are required. Your child’s doctor at Children’s Hospital Colorado will order an x-ray to get a better look at the bone. At Children’s Colorado, we aim to get the x-ray right the first time and with as few films as possible. This helps protect our patients’ long-term health and minimize exposure to radiation.

X-rays at Children’s Colorado are evaluated by a pediatric orthopedist and a pediatric radiologist.  These specialists will determine if the bone is broken, the type of fracture and how it will be best treated.  There are many different types of fractures in children, making the treatment for each fracture individualized.

Types of fractures:

  • complete fracture is when the bone has broken into two pieces.
  • A non-displaced fracture is where there is a break in the bone, but it does not change the shape of the bone.
  • A displaced fracture is where there is a break in the bone and it changes the shape or alignment of the bone.
  • buckle fracture is an incomplete break that happens in younger kids’ bones.
  • bowing fracture (also called a plastic deformity) is a condition that only happens in kids and occurs when the bone bends but doesn't break.
  • greenstick fracture is when the bone cracks on one side only, not all the way through.
  • comminuted fracture is when the bone is broken into more than two pieces or crushed.
  • An open fracture (commonly referred to as a compound fracture) is when the bone is sticking through the skin.

How are fractures treated in kids?

Pediatric orthopedists and advanced practice providers at Children’s Hospital Colorado will use several different factors to determine the best treatment for your child’s fracture. These include the age of your child, growth plates, the bone that is broken, and the pattern of the break.  Different ways to treat fractures are:

  • Casts or splints
  • Slings
  • Closed reduction with casting/splinting: Pain and sedation medication is used to keep your child comfortable while a pediatric orthopedic provider manipulates the bones to get them in better alignment without surgery. 
  • Surgery: There are many surgeries unique to each type of fracture.  Often the bone requires hardware to keep it stable and allow for healing.  If your child requires surgery, an orthopedic surgeon will determine and explain the best surgical options. 

Why choose Children’s Hospital Colorado for your child’s broken bone?

Children's bones and bodies aren't just smaller than adults' – they're physically different and require different medical knowledge and equipment for proper diagnosis and treatment. For example, kids’ bones have growth plates (adults’ do not), which makes pediatric x-rays harder to read.

At Children’s Colorado, our pediatric specialists provide expert fracture management geared specifically to children and young adults. At the Orthopedics Institute and at all of our emergency and urgent-care locations, everyone from the doctor to lab tech specializes in pediatrics. Each location is also directly connected to our main campus in Aurora and has access to a pediatric emergency medicine specialist at all times.


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