Forearm and Wrist Fractures

Forearm fractures make up 40% of all fractures in children. Wrist fractures are the most common and in adolescents commonly involve the growth plate. Fractures in the midportion of the forearm are most common in middle school-age children.

Patients can be seen by Texas Children's experts in Fracture Clinic.

Causes & Risk Factors

The most common cause of forearm fractures is a fall on an outstretched hand. This happens frequently in sports with older children and while playing in younger children.

Symptoms & Types

A broken wrist, or wrist fracture, can be a break of the distal radius, ulna or both. A forearm fracture is a break of the midportion of the radius, ulna or both.

If you hold your arms at your side with your palms facing up, the ulna is the bone closest to the body and the radius is closest to the thumb. The ulna is larger at the elbow - it forms the "point" of the elbow - and the radius is larger at the wrist.

Diagnosis & Tests

Some forearm and wrist fractures are very displaced and obvious, but other breaks are more subtle. X-rays of the wrist or forearm will be taken to determine the location and type of fracture your child has.

Treatment & Care

The type of the fracture and age of the patient determine the type of treatment required. Fortunately, children with broken bones heal much faster than adults and, unlike adults, children's bones will remodel or straighten out over time.

Some displaced fractures in older children will require sedation and reduction (lining up the bone). In younger children bones can be left in position because they will remodel or straighten.  Other fractures require surgery to fix, however. This may involve pins, rods, plates or screws.  Your doctor will discuss with you the treatment plan that is best for your child and the type of fracture.

Regardless of the treatment for the fracture, a cast will be required. For wrist fractures, the cast will be below the elbow. Forearm fractures usually require a cast that extends over the elbow. Casts are usually worn for 4 to 6 weeks and your health provider will discuss which type of cast is needed and how long it will need to be worn.

Living & Managing

After the cast is removed, x-rays will be taken and a brace may be worn for several weeks.