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Glossary of Pediatric Orthopedic Terms

Listed below are terms you may hear during your child’s treatment.

Anesthesia. Medication that prevents pain. It’s often used during procedures. Local anesthesia is used to numb small areas. General anesthesia puts a patient into a state like deep sleep.

Brachial plexus. A network of nerves in the neck and shoulder.

Cartilage. Dense elastic tissue. It helps cushion joints.

Cast. Holds an injured area still and protects it during the healing process.

Closed fracture. A broken bone that does not come through the skin. (Used to be called a “simple” fracture.)

Computed tomography (CT) scan. Test that makes layered images of the inside of the body. It uses computers and X-rays.

Congenital. Present at birth.

Contusion. Broken blood vessels under the skin. Also called a bruise.

Diaphysis. Middle section of a long bone.

Displaced fracture. A fracture in which the broken pieces of bone are not lined up.

DMARDs (disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs). Type of medications. They are used to treat certain autoimmune conditions or diseases. They also treat certain symptoms, such as inflammation.

Epiphysis. End of a long bone.

Fixation (internal or external). Rejoining of bones. Done using metal devices such as bars, pins, plates, screws, or wires. Internal fixation is only inside the body. For external fixation, one or more parts of the device are outside the skin.

Fracture. A crack or break in a bone.

Fracture callus. A bump of new bone that forms around a bone fracture as it heals.

Greenstick fracture. A fracture where the bone bends but doesn’t break all the way through. Occurs in children.

Growth plate. A soft part at the end of a bone in children. It lets the bone grow as the child grows.

Hairline fracture. A fracture in which the break line is very thin. The bones do not separate.

Hip dysplasia. A condition where a baby is born with a weak hip joint. This causes the hip to move out of place. It is sometimes called “congenital hip dislocation.”

Leg-length discrepancy (LLD). Legs of different lengths.

Ligament. Tough tissue that connects one bone to another.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Test that makes images of tissues and structures inside the body. It uses magnets and radio waves.

Metaphysis. The wide part just before the end of a long bone.

Metatarsus adductus. A congenital foot deformity. It causes the front of the foot to hook inward.

Nondisplaced fracture. A bone break in which the ends of the fracture remain lined up.

NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Medications used to reduce pain and inflammation. They include ibuprofen and naproxen. NSAIDs can be over-the-counter or prescribed.

Open fracture. A broken bone that comes through the skin. (Used to be called a “compound” fracture.)

Orthopedist. A doctor who evaluates and treats problems with bones and related structures. This includes joints, nerves, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Also called an orthopedic surgeon.

Pediatric orthopedist. A doctor who specializes in orthopedic medicine for children. Also called a pediatric orthopedic surgeon.

Physical therapy (PT). A program of therapy and exercises. Helps patients strengthen areas weakened by injury or disease. Special exercise equipment may be used.

Range of motion (ROM). The amount of movement a joint allows.

Reduction (closed or open). A procedure during which broken bones are moved back into place to heal. A closed reduction is done from outside the body, without incisions. An open reduction is done through incisions.

RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation). This is a first treatment for sprains and strains. It helps relieve pain and swelling.

Splint. A device used to hold joints or bones in place and restrict movement. This helps healing.

Sprain. Injury to a ligament.

Strain. Injury to a muscle or tendon.

Tendon. Tough tissue that connects muscle to bone.

Vertebra. One of the 33 bones that make up the spine.

X-ray. A procedure that makes images of structures (often bones) in the body. It uses radiation.

Online Medical Reviewer: Finke, Amy, RN, BSN
Online Medical Reviewer: newMentor board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 3/11/2013
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