Treatment & Care
Whether your child’s broken leg is serious or routine, Boston Children’s Hospital orthopedic experts will provide comprehensive treatment.
Because children’s bones heal more quickly than those of adults, they need prompt medical attention to ensure they heal correctly. With treatment, most kids recover completely and regain full use of their leg—sometimes in a matter of weeks with casting.
What are the treatments for broken legs in children?
Treatment for a broken leg depends on the location, complexity and severity of your child’s break as well as his age and overall health.
To restore your child’s use of his broken leg, his doctor may recommend some combination of these treatments:
- Splints: because casts can be too tight and affect circulation, doctors will usually put a splint on a newly broken bone and replace it with a cast once the swelling has gone down. Splints are also used for minor fractures.
- Casts encircle the entire bone to protect the injured area from motion or impact. Most broken bones require a cast.
- Traction uses a gentle pulling motion to realign broken bones and reduce painful muscle spasms in the leg and arm.
- Surgery may be needed to put broken bones back into place. A surgeon may insert metal rods or pins into the bone (internal fixation) or outside the body (external fixation) to hold bone fragments in place to allow alignment and healing.
- Physical therapy may also be needed to strengthen the leg and help it return to full function.
What types of casts are used to treat a broken leg?
Some common types of casting include:
- Short leg cast
- Long leg cast
- Leg cylinder cast
- Hip spica cast
- Abduction boot cast
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|Short leg cast||Applied to the area below the knee to the foot||Lower leg fractures, severe ankle sprains/strains, or fractures. Also used to hold the leg or foot muscles and tendons in place after surgery to allow healing|
|Leg cylinder cast||Applied from the upper thigh to the ankle||Knee, or lower leg fractures, knee dislocations, or after surgery on the leg or knee area|
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|Unilateral hip spica cast||Applied from the chest to the foot on one leg||
Thigh fractures also used to hold the hip or thigh muscles and tendons in place after surgery to allow healing
|One and one-half hip spica cast||Applied from the chest to the foot on one leg to the knee of the other leg; a bar is placed between both legs to keep the hips and legs immobilized||
Thigh fractures; also used to hold the hip or thigh muscles and tendons in place after surgery to allow healing.
|Bilateral long leg hip spica cast||Applied from the chest to the feet; a bar is placed between both legs to keep the hips and legs immobilized||
Pelvis, hip, or thigh fractures; also used to hold the hip or thigh muscles and tendons in place after surgery to allow healing
|Short leg hip spica cast||Applied from the chest to the thighs or knees||To hold the hip muscles and tendons in place after surgery to allow healing|
|Abduction boot cast||Applied from the upper thighs to the feet; a bar is placed between both legs to keep the hips and legs immobilized||To hold the hip muscles and tendons in place after surgery to allow healing|
How long does it take for a child’s broken leg to heal?
Healing time depends on the child’s age and the type of fracture. In general, healing time for a broken leg is about three to six weeks.
While you can’t prevent your child from breaking a bone, you can help minimize the risk by taking simple precautions:
- Avoid risky behavior that can result in falls or accidents and make sure your child wears proper sports and safety gear.
- Make sure your child eats a healthful diet that is low in fat and high in protein, nutrients and fiber. Plenty of calcium and vitamin D are also important because they help strengthen bone.
- Monitor portions to help control weight, since obesity puts your child at greater risk for breaking a bone.
- Encourage your child to get a lot of weight-bearing physical exercise.
- Encourage your young athlete to do some cross-training to decrease the possibility of stress fractures caused by repetitive sports or dance motions.
- Discourage prolonged time watching TV, playing computer games or other sedentary activities.