Orthopedic Conditions: Toddlers

Orthopedic Problems Found in Young Children

Toddlers are prone to developing orthopedic injuries as they become more active. These young children may also be prone to developing bone or joint infections. Toddlers can be difficult to diagnose because of their inability to communicate their symptoms.

Buckle Fracture

toddler fracture
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A buckle fracture is one of the most common injuries in a young child.  These injuries are typically the result of a fall onto an outstretched extremity. There is usually no deformity of the extremity, although swelling may make the extremity look abnormal. Children complain of pain when moving or when the extremity is touched, but this is usually relieved by rest and protection. For this reason, most buckle fractures can be easily treated with the use of a cast or even a splint.

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Toddler's Fracture

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A toddler's fracture is typically seen in the tibia (shin bone). These injuries most often occur with a twisting movement and lead to a spiral break along the shaft of the bone. A toddler's fracture is not out of position and will heal normally with simple protection. Placing your child in a cast will allow for the fracture to heal, while protecting your child from the discomfort of a broken bone.

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Septic Hip

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A septic hip is an infection of the hip joint. Children who have a fever and a limp should be checked for a hip joint infection, because urgent treatment may be needed. Without cleaning the infection out of the hip joint, the hip cartilage may be permanently damaged. As a result of this concern about the possibility of permanent damage, doctors tend to be aggressive about treatment even if the diagnosis is not perfectly clear. If there is a question of the diagnosis, obtaining a sample of fluid from a needle can help to identify if there is infection in the joint.

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Hip Synovitis

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Hip synovitis often looks very similar to a hip joint infection. The difference is that synovitis is an inflammation of the hip, not a bacterial infection, and will heal with nonsurgical treatments. Differentiating a hip joint infection from hip inflammation can be difficult, and children may be carefully observed to determine the cause of their pain. Hip synovitis, however, will heal with rest and time. Therefore, your doctor may observe your child for some time as synovitis will tend to improve whereas a septic (infected) joint will tend to worsen with time.

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Femur Fractures

femur fracture child
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A femur fracture is a significant injury, but usually will heal without surgery in young child. The younger the child, the quicker these injuries will heal. Also in younger children, even widely displaced fractures will heal together. Most infant and toddler age children who sustain a femur fracture can be treated in a spica cast. As children get older, surgery may be more commonly used for treatment, but in young children these injuries are almost always treated non-surgically.

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Blount's Disease

toddler legs
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Blount's disease is a condition that causes abnormal bowing of the legs in young children. Differentiating Blount's disease from normal bowed legs of a toddler can be challenging in young kids, but as kids grow into their two and threes, the bowing should gradually diminish.  In kids with Blount's disease, the bowed legs do not improve, and can even worsen. Depending on the age of the child, there are different treatments for Blount's disease including bracing and surgery.

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Growth Plate Injuries

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The growth plate is the most rapidly growing part of the bone and is prone to injury. In addition, growth plate damage can lead to long-term problems if the growth of the bone is permanently affected. For this reason, it's important to ensure that proper treatment occurs to decrease the chance of long-term problems with the growth plate. 

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