Upper Extremity Fractures

Children break bones more easily than adults - so pediatric fractures are very common. There are several unique features of the pediatric musculoskeletal system that need to be considered in management decisions of all of these injuries - growth plates, plasticity, callus formation, remodeling potential, and partial breaks are some of the key ones. Recognition and appropriate management of pediatric fractures by ED providers is critical. While some common minor wrist and ankle fractures can be treated with a less conservative approach encouraging an early return to activities, other fractures if not treated properly can result in long term functional problems for the child and/or be a sign of child maltreatment.



Overviews of systematic reviews

Cochrane Summary: Conservative interventions for shaft fractures of the forearm bones in children


Madhuri V, Dutt V, Gahukamble AD, Tharyan P

The forearm consists of two bones, the radius and the ulna. Fractures (broken bones) in the middle portion (shaft) of one or both of these bones are common injuries in children. Most of these fractures are treated conservatively (i.e. without surgery). Conservative treatment usually involves gently putting the broken bone back into place (reduction). Part of the arm is then put in a cast to protect and support the broken bones while they heal. There are different ways of immobilising the injured arm. For example, some casts include the elbow whereas others do not. When casts include the elbow, the elbow may be in a bent or extended position. While these fractures usually heal, the results are not always satisfactory and sometimes there are complications. This review aimed to find out which conservative treatment methods give the best results for children with these fractures by looking at the evidence from randomised controlled trials comparing different conservative interventions. While we found two completed trials, both were published only in conference abstracts that failed to provide any usable data. We also found two ongoing trials. In all, the review found no evidence from randomised trials to inform on the best ways to treat these fractures.

Cochrane Summary: Surgical treatment for forearm fractures in children (fractures involving the shafts of the radius and ulna)


Abraham A, Kumar S, Chaudhry S, Ibrahim T

Fractures of the shafts of the forearm bones in children are common injuries and occur after a fall on an outstretched hand. There are two bones in the forearm: the radius and the ulna. After a fall either one or both bones may fracture. The shape of forearm bones are important for the twisting motion of the hand, such as in receiving change from a shop keeper with an open palm (supination) or turning a key in a door (turning the palm facing down - pronation). Treatment of the forearm fracture aims to restore the shape of the bones such that supination and pronation ability is restored. The first stage of treatment involves manipulating (setting) the bones to the correct shape. This is usually done under anaesthesia. The second stage involves stabilising the fractured bones either with a plaster cast (conservative treatment) or metal implants (surgical treatment). This review aimed to examine the evidence from randomised controlled trials comparing conservative versus surgical methods and trials comparing different surgical methods for treatment of these fractures. We hoped to find which are the best methods in terms of function and complications. In spite of a thorough search we found no evidence from properly conducted studies to help inform decisions on treatment of these fractures.