Greenstick Fracture of the Forearm (Child) 

Your child has a broken bone, or fracture, of the forearm, between the wrist and the elbow. This fracture is called a greenstick fracture. This is when one side of the bone cracks, and the other side only bends without any break. This is a common fracture in children because their bones are softer. It is also called an incomplete fracture.

If a greenstick fracture causes the bone position to be angled, the bone may need to be straightened before applying a splint or cast. This is called reducing the fracture. It often takes at least 3 weeks for this fracture to heal.

Home care

Medicines

  • The provider may prescribe medicines for pain and swelling. Or your child may use over-the-counter medicine as directed by the provider. Follow the provider’s instructions when giving these medicines to your child. 

  • Always talk with your child's provider before giving these medicines if your child has chronic liver or kidney disease, or ever had a stomach ulcer or GI bleeding.

  • Don’t use ibuprofen in children younger than 6 months old.

  • Don’t give your child aspirin. Taking aspirin can put your child at risk for Reye syndrome. This is a rare but very serious disorder that most often affects the brain and the liver.

General care

  • Your child will be given a splint or cast to keep the injured area from moving. Keep your child’s arm raised to reduce pain and swelling. When sitting or lying down, raise the arm above heart level. You can do this by placing the arm on a pillow that rests on the chest. Or by placing the arm on a pillow at your child’s side. This is most important during the first 48 hours after injury.

  • Apply an ice pack over the injured area for 20 minutes. Do this every 1 to 2 hours the first day. Keep using ice packs 3 to 4 times a day for the next 2 days. Then use as needed to ease pain and swelling.

  • To make an ice pack, put ice cubes plastic bag that seals at the top. Wrap the bag in a clean, thin towel or cloth. Never put ice directly on the skin. As the ice melts, be careful that the cast or splint doesn’t get wet. You can place the ice pack inside the sling and directly over the splint or cast.

  • Keep the cast or splint dry at all times. Bathe with the cast or splint out of the water, protected with 2 large plastic bags. Place 1 bag outside of the other. Tape each bag with duct tape at the top end or use rubber bands.  Younger children may be hurt when removing tape. For younger children, put a rubber band around each bag at the top end. Water can still leak in. So it's best to keep the cast or splint away from water. If a fiberglass splint or cast gets wet, dry it with a hair dryer on a cool setting.

Follow-up care

Follow up with the healthcare provider in 1 week, or as advised. This is to be sure the bone is healing correctly. If your child was given a splint, it may be changed to a cast at the follow-up visit. There is a chance that a greenstick fracture will move out of place again during the first week before the ends begin to seal together. So it is important that you follow up as directed for another X-ray.

If X-rays were taken, you will be told of any new findings that may affect your child’s care.

When to seek medical advice

Call your child's healthcare provider right away if any of the following occur:

  • The cast or splint becomes loose

  • The cast or splint has a bad smell

  • The cast or splint has cracks or breaks 

  • The plaster cast or splint becomes wet or soft

  • The fiberglass cast or splint stays wet for more than 24 hours

  • There is increased tightness, soreness, or pain under the cast or splint

  • Fingers become swollen, cold, blue, numb, or tingly

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