Orthopaedic Conditons & Treatments

Femur Fractures in Children, Causes and Symptoms

The femur or thigh bone is frequently injured in children. They are usually the result of significant trauma such as a fall from a height or a motor vehicle accident.  With proper treatment, most femur fractures heal properly.without permanent problems.

There are a variety of  treatments for femur fractures in children, depending on the age of the patient, type of fracture, and location in the bone. Infants and toddlers can usually be treated with a spica (body) cast. Older children may require surgery depending on the severity of the injury and its location. Rods are commonly used to treat femur fractures in older children, as well. Flexible rods that are inserted into the hollow center of the bone are the most common, but in some cases a solid rod or an external fixator may be appropriate. Children over the age of 12 are more likely to have a femur fracture treated the same as an adult would.  

While perfect alignment is often sought in adult patients, children have the advantage of growth and the ability to remodel the bone with time. Thus, your surgeon may leave the bones overlapped or slightly displaced since with time it will straighten on its own.

Anatomy of the Femur

The head of the femur is fairly round and sits within a cup  known as the acetabulum. This forms the hip joint. The shaft runs down the thigh and is covered in the front by the quadriceps muscle. At the end by the knee, it flairs and has rounded areas called condyles that form the knee joint with the upper end of the tibia and the patella (or knee cap). There is a growth plate within the femoral head at the top, and also a growth plate at the level of the condyles.

Types of Femur Fractures in Children

There are many different types of femur fractures Fractures may occur without breaking the skin (called simple or closed fractures), or in more serious injuries the bone may even pierce the skin (called compound or open fractures). Femur fractures are categorized based on several factors:

  • Location – fractures occur in the distal third, middle or proximal area of the thighbone 
  • Number – There may only be two fractured parts, or several
  • Position – fractured edges may be displaced or angulated
  • Shape – spiral, oblique or transverse

Causes of Femur Fractures in Children

Sadly, the most common cause of femur fracture in infants under the age of one is child abuse, making up to 70% of the fractures in this age group. Other common causes of femur fracture in children include accidents on or around vehicles and serious slips and falls. Below is a list of frequent causes of femur fractures in children and adolescents:

  • Bicycle accidents
  • Car accidents
  • Contact sports
  • Hard playground falls
  • Pedestrian/vehicle accidents

Symptoms of Femur Fracture in Children

Symptoms in children may vary greatly depending on the type and severity of the injury. If your child has been in an accident and is exhibiting any or all of the following common symptoms of femur fractures in children, you should seek medical treatment for them right away.

  • Intense and ongoing pain
  • Noticeable swelling or deformation in the thigh area
  • Inability to walk or stand
  • Limited range of motion in the knee or hip

A femur fracture is a serious injury. Parents and other caregivers are advised to seek medical treatment immediately in cases of femur fractures in children, and to provide as much information as possible to the physician so he or she may better treat the injury. The most appropriate treatment option will depend on the type, severity and location of the fracture. Fortunately, most children heal normally with proper medical care and maintenance.

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