How To Care For A Broken Bone

If you think you or your child may have a broken bone there are some important steps to take.

First Aid
Immobilize the limb – broken bones hurt less if they aren’t moving so stabilize the arm or leg with something stiff – a rolled newspaper or stick strapped to the limb work well.

Seek Medical Care
See your doctor or attend the emergency department where they will assess and image the suspected break.If the patient is unable to be moved, call an ambulance.  Emergency doctors will often refer you to an orthopaedic surgeon like Mr Brian Loh. Some orthopaedic surgeons primarily see adults while Mr Loh has experience with both adult and paedicatric trauma.

If the bone is broken, a cast will probably be applied.  Initially it might be a back slab which might be revised to a full cast when the swelling has come down.

It is common to have an x-ray 1-2 weeks after the injury to assess the position of the bones, and then, again, when the cast comes off.  If the growth plate or nerves are affected, Mr Brian Loh will generally review you more frequently and for a longer time to ensure all is going well.

First Few Days
Expect some pain and soreness in the first few days- over the counter pain medications and rest will help, as will elevating the limb.

Keep An Eye On Fingers And Toes
If there are any changes in sensation or colour of the fingers and toes, let your health care team know ASAP.  These could be an indication that the cast is too tight or the area is swelling a lot and this will need to be managed quickly. Wriggling fingers are toes is fine and should be encouraged.

Itchy Casts
Avoid scratching with skewers or chopsticks – the best way to manage itching is with cool air from a hairdryer on its coolest setting.

Leave The Cast Alone
Avoid picking at the padding or the cast.  Changes to the cast and its padding can affect the position of the fracture and impact healing.  Jagged edges can irritate skin.  Leave it to your doctor to make any adjustments to the cast.  But decorate the outside as much as you like!  Permanent markers are terrific!

Keep It Clean And Dry
Sand, dirt, and spaghetti sauce will all irritate the skin and get stinky.  The cast will be on for a while so make sure to do your best to keep it clean.  Only a couple of types of cast can get wet, so make sure the cast is kept dry -this can be done by wrapping a plastic bag around the limb and keeping it out of the bath.

Keeping a cast in good condition is key in helping the bones heal as quickly as possible and in the best possible position.