Most children are active, daring and unafraid to try new things, but sometimes they fall flat on their face – or onto an outstretched arm. The result can be a painful wrist fracture. Traditionally, doctors have treated wrist fractures in children by applying a plaster cast. Now, new research shows this may be unnecessary. Many wrist fractures in children can be safely treated with a splint.
Wrist Fractures in Children: A Splint Works Well
Researchers compared the effectiveness and safety of a splint vs. a cast for treating 92 children between the ages of five and twelve – all of whom had a wrist fracture. Half of the kids were fitted with a cast, while the other half wore a splint.
After six weeks, a physiotherapist evaluated the wrists of the children – without knowing who received a cast and who wore a splint. The physiotherapist found no differences between those treated conventionally, with a cast, and kids who used a splint. The children who wore a splint had the same degree of healing, fracture stability, and no greater risk of complications than did kids who wore a cast.
Wrist Fractures in Children: Why is a Splint Better?
Most parents and kids prefer a wrist splint since its more convenient, easier to clean, and less restrictive than a plaster cast. When given a choice, most families choose a splint rather than a cast.
The Drawbacks of a Wrist Splint to Treat a Fracture of the Wrist
The greatest benefit of a splint, its ability to be removed, is one of its weaknesses. Parents have to count on a child to keep the wrist splint on all the time – or risk abnormal healing. Some children won’t fully understand the importance of wearing a wrist splint and may take it off when their parents are out of sight.
Not all wrist fractures can be safely treated with a splint. Some may require casting. The most common type of wrist fracture in children is a buckle, or torus, fracture where the bone buckles in on itself. This type of fracture usually occurs when a child falls onto an outstretched arm. It can be safely treated with a wrist splint, assuming a child can be trusted to keep the splint on. Some types of wrist fractures in children may still require a plaster cast for optimal healing.
Treating Wrist Fractures in Children: The Bottom Line
A wrist splint is suitable for treating buckle fractures of the wrist in children, but a cast is a better for children who can’t be relied upon to keep a splint on. Talk to your child’s doctor about the pros and cons of each.
Eurekalert.org. “Wrist splints in children as effective as casts”