Splints heal kids’ broken wrists as well as casts

Children who break a wrist can heal as well in a splint as a cast, a new study has discovered.

TORONTO — Children who break a wrist can heal as well in a splint as a cast, a new study has discovered.

The advantage of a splint is that it can be removed occasionally to wash the arm or let it breathe or scratch itchy skin, according to co-author Dr. Kathy Boutis, an emergency room pediatrician at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

The study, published Tuesday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, looked at 92 children aged five to 12 who arrived in the hospital’s emergency room between April 2007 and September 2009 with broken wrists.

The fractures were a clear break of the bone, and the bone could be a little bit bent or displaced for the child to qualify for the study. Forty-three kids received a splint and the other 49 were put in a cast.

“What we found was that essentially both groups performed very well, and this particular trial was not a trial to see if there was a difference between them, and certainly we were not interested to know if the splint was better,” Boutis explained.

“We only cared to know if the splint was worse, because we know that the splint has so many advantages — and we know that these injuries heal so well. Better was not the question. We just wanted to make sure it was safe.”

Boutis said researchers found the splint was at least as effective as the cast, and wrist movement and strength were similar. She added children’s bones heal differently than those of adults, and will straighten as they heal.