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Transverse Fractures of the Femoral Shaft Are a Better Predictor of Nonaccidental Trauma in Young Children Than Spiral Fractures Are

Murphy, Ryan BS; Kelly, Derek M. MD; Moisan, Alice BSN; Thompson, Norfleet B. MD; Warner, William C. Jr. MD; Beaty, James H. MD; Sawyer, Jeffrey R. MD

Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery - American Volume: 21 January 2015 - Volume 97 - Issue 2 - p 106–111
doi: 10.2106/JBJS.N.00664
Scientific Articles

Background: Certain fracture configurations, especially spiral fractures, are often thought to be indicative of nonaccidental trauma in children. The purpose of this study was to determine whether femoral fracture morphology, as determined by an objective measurement (fracture ratio), was indicative of nonaccidental trauma in young children.

Methods: Consecutive patients who were three years of age or younger and had a closed, isolated femoral shaft fracture treated at an urban pediatric level-I trauma center between 2005 and 2013 were identified. Anteroposterior and lateral fracture ratios (fracture length/bone diameter) were calculated for each patient by a fellowship-trained pediatric orthopaedic surgeon who was blinded to the patient’s clinical history. The presence or absence of a Child Protective Services referral as well as institutional Child Assessment Program evaluations were reviewed. Nonaccidental trauma was deemed to be present, absent, or indeterminate by Child Protective Services or an on-site Child Assessment Program team. To further evaluate and quantify the likelihood of nonaccidental trauma, the criteria of the Modified Maltreatment Classification System were used.

Results: Of 122 patients identified, ninety-five met the inclusion criteria for this study. Of these ninety-five, fifty-one (54%) had either a Child Protective Services or a Child Assessment Program consultation because of suspected nonaccidental trauma. Thirteen (25%) were found to have nonaccidental trauma as determined by Child Protective Services or the Child Assessment Program team and seven (14%) had indeterminate Child Protective Services or Child Assessment Program investigations. All thirteen patients with nonaccidental trauma, as well as the seven patients with an indeterminate Child Protective Services or Child Assessment Program investigation, had positive Modified Maltreatment Classification System scores for physical abuse. Patients who had nonaccidental trauma had significantly decreased mean anteroposterior fracture ratios compared with those who had confirmed accidental trauma (p < 0.0001).

Conclusions: The fracture ratio can be helpful to determine fracture morphology and can be used as part of the assessment of a child with suspected nonaccidental trauma. While not diagnostic, the presence of a transverse diaphyseal femoral fracture in a young child should raise the index of suspicion for nonaccidental trauma.

Level of Evidence: Prognostic Level III. See Instructions for Authors for a complete description of levels of evidence.

1Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Biomedical Engineering, University of Tennessee, 1211 Union Avenue, Suite 510, Memphis, TN 38104. E-mail address for J.R. Sawyer:

2Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, 848 Adams Avenue, Memphis, TN 38103

Copyright 2015 by The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, Incorporated
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