Sticks and stones

Broken bones are a scary experience for any parent. We ask Dr Bariah Dardari, paediatrics and neonatology consultant at Al Zahra Hospital, Dubai for her advice

Interview, Health

If I suspect my child has a broken bone, what is the first course of action? Should I call an ambulance?
It’s only natural for parents to panic when their child has an accident, but it is only necessary to call for an ambulance if you suspect a head or neck trauma. For anything else, such as a broken arm, it’s perfectly safe to take your child to ER using your own personal transport, such as a car.

Other than pain, what are the obvious symptoms of a fracture?

It’s not always easy to tell when a child’s bone is broken, especially with young children who might not able to tell you how they are feeling. Signs to look out for include limping or crawling awkwardly and, in some cases, they may even stop using their limbs completely rather than complaining from the pain. In this instance, we advise parents to check for bruising or swelling and then to get in touch with their paediatric consultant.

What different types of break or fracture are there? Are some more serious than others?

Children are very different when it comes to the breaking and healing of bones, this is because their bones are still growing and are more vulnerable.

The most simple fractures are: ‘green stick’ fractures, where soft bone found in young children bends and only breaks on one side; ‘torus fractures’ where the bone is buckled, twisted and weakened but not completely broken); and a ‘bend fracture’, when a bone is bent but not broken – this is relatively common among youngsters. Finally, and most serious of all, is a ‘complete fracture’, which is where the bone breaks all the way through. What you must remember is that these are very common and easily treatable if in the right care.

What first aid can I do at home before my child gets to the ER?
It’s important to make your child feel as comfortable as possible following an accident. To help relieve pain you can give your child painkillers and try to immobilize the limb before arriving to ER. However, make sure you let the ER staff know exactly what medicine your child has taken as well as any allergies they may have.

What is the procedure when a child with a broken bone arrives in hospital?
As you arrive at the ER department, the staff attending will see your child as soon as possible, but be prepared for some delays as ER departments are always very busy. If the break or fracture is serious then an x-ray may be required and, in some cases, even surgery. Don’t worry – the ER team will be at hand to explain every step of your child’s recovery.

Will a broken arm or leg always be put in a cast? Are there any other forms of treatment?
In most cases the break or fracture will be treated using a simple brace or a cast, although more serious cases may require surgery.

If a cast is used, how long can I expect it to be on?
It really depends on the type of fracture and how old your child is. As a general rule of thumb, the younger they are, the faster we expect the bone to heal. On average a cast will need to stay on for four to six weeks and we will let you know what activity your child can and can’t do during that time.

Will there be lots of follow up appointments as the broken bone heals?

To make sure your child’s bone is on the right track we would like to see them at least two to three times over the next six weeks. If you are worried about the healing process or if your child is in pain then you should visit your paediatric consultant who will be able to advise on next steps.

Will that limb be weaker in the future? Are there any exercises or treatments that can strengthen the bone over time?
Growing bones heal extremely well, so the area shouldn’t be weak in the future unless the fracture was complicated or if your child has vitamin D deficiency. However, in some cases your child might need a period of physical therapy after the cast has been removed.

Opening soon...

Already one of Sharjah’s most established hospitals, Al Zahra Hospital is set to open a brand new, state of the art facility on the Sheikh Zayed Road in New Dubai for the start of 2013. Focusing on family-centric care, 100 per cent of the hospital’s physicians are trained in the West, and the hospital will also include a much-needed ER for this part of town.
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