Broken Bones in Children: When to Go to the ER?

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Fractures or broken bones in children are among the most common injuries sustained by kids in the summertime, and a common reason to go to the ER for a pediatric X-ray. At The Methodist Emergency Care Center at Kirby, technology makes it possible for low dose imaging with fast results for patients of all ages.

Children's bones are also extremely pliable, which means a bone could bend, rather than break during an injury or accident.“Children's bones have a remarkable ability to heal quickly and the younger the child, the more this is true,” says Dr. Jeremy Finkelstein, medical director and section chief of emergency medicine at The Methodist Hospital in Houston. This capacity for healing often allows physicians to cast or splint children's bones as they heal, rather than requiring a surgical option, which is more common in adults.

Because children are growing, their bones contain growth plates where new bone cells divide quickly. A fracture in or near a child's growth plate can have major long-term effects. As it heals, this type of injury requires close supervision by a pediatric orthopedist to help avoid permanent growth problems in the child.

"With most severe breaks, your child will experience sharp pain and you will most likely be aware that a bone is broken," says Finkelstein. "However, there are many cases – especially if the fracture is small – when your child may not feel pain at all and you won't know if a bone is broken.”

When to go to the ER? If an accident or injury has occurred, Finkelstein says it's best to bring your child in for an examination and pediatric X-rays. Without timely treatment of a fracture, the bone will begin to heal itself – often in a compromised position.

For more information on emergency care services and a listing of locations, call 713.441.ER24 (3724) or visit methodisthealth.com/er.