fracture and broken bone care – what can wait?
If you think your child has broken a bone, your instinct may be to run to the nearest emergency department (ED) for care. You may be surprised to learn that many times it can wait and you can avoid an emergency visit and skip straight to the orthopedic specialist.
what should I do?
Go to the ED if:
- It is an open fracture where the bone is poking out of the skin.
- There is an obvious deformity (looks like a bump or change in the shape of the bone)
- Your child’s pain is not being managed by over-the-counter medication.
When you can wait:
If you don’t meet the criteria above, it is possible to wait and make an appointment with a pediatric orthopedic specialist for later in the day or even the next day. Waiting will not affect your child’s outcome.
See below for options on scheduling with an orthopedic specialist.
What to do while you wait:
- Apply a cold compress or ice pack wrapped in cloth. Do not put ice directly on the skin.
- Take over-the-counter pain medication such as Ibuprofen or Tylenol
how do I know if it’s broken?
The classic signs of a fracture are pain, swelling, and deformity (which looks like a bump or change in the shape of the bone).
Additional signs of a fracture are:
- You or your child heard a snap or a grinding noise during the injury.
- There's bruising or tenderness around the injury
- It's painful for your child to move it, touch it, or press on it; if the leg is injured, it's painful to bear weight on it.
- The injured part looks deformed. In severe breaks, the broken bone might poke through the skin. This is an instance where you need to go to the emergency department for care.
Although most broken bones simply need a cast to heal, other more serious fractures (such as compound fractures) might require surgery to be properly aligned and to make sure the bones stay together during the healing process.
If you believe your child may have broken a bone, but think they can wait based upon the suggestions above, there are several options for care, outside of the emergency departments at Dayton Children’s main and south campuses.
Options for pediatric fracture and broken bone care:
- Online scheduling: New and existing patients with a suspected fracture are able to make an appointment online with an orthopedic provider by visiting: www.childrensdayton.org/schedule-orthopedic-appointment
- After-hours ortho: On Mondays and Wednesdays, between 4:00 – 6:00 pm, parents have an option to walk-in or schedule an appointment online with Dayton Children’s after-hours ortho clinic at south campus by visiting: https://www.childrensdayton.org/patients-visitors/services/orthopedics/plan-your-visit/after-hours-ortho
- Call the orthopedics clinic directly: To call the orthopedic clinic directly, patient families can call 937-641-3010 during normal business hours of Monday-Friday, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm. Whenever possible, clinic staff will try and accommodate patients with urgent needs.