Greenstick Fracture Definition

When Bones Bend But Don't Break

child fracture
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Broken bones are common injuries, and many children will experience at least one fracture in their growing years.  Children's fractures are different from adults.  Because a child's bone is rapidly growing their fractures occur in different ways, and they are managed differently.

Flexible Bones

Because a child's bones are much more flexible than adult bone, an incomplete, or 'greenstick,' fracture may occur.

A "greenstick fracture" means that one side of the fracture has broken and one side is bent; therefore it is classified as an incomplete break.

The name for a greenstick fracture comes from the analogy of breaking a young, fresh tree branch. The broken branch snaps on one side (the outer side of the bend), while the inner side is bent, and still in continuity.

Treatment of Greenstick Fractures

If the fractured bone is not badly bent out of alignment, then nothing more than a splint or cast may need to be done.  A growing skeleton has a remarkable ability to remodel bone such that fractures can relaign with time.  The ability to remodel a fracture is dependent on a number of factors, most importantly the age of the patient.  The younger the patient, the better ability to heal the fracture with noninvasive treatments. 

Sometimes, the greenstick fracture must be bent back into the proper position (called a "fracture reduction") and then treated in a cast.

  When this is necessary, your child will typically be administered an anesthetic and will have the bone manually realigned.  Following this procedure, a cast or splint is applied to hold the bones in the proper position.  Depending on how quickly the bone heals, the cast may be necessary for a few weeks, or maybe more than a month.

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