Healing patterns of clavicular birth injuries as a guide to fracture dating in cases of possible infant abuse
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Dating fractures is critical in cases of suspected infant abuse. There are little scientific data to guide radiologists, and dating is generally based on personal experience and conventional wisdom.
Since birth-related clavicular fractures are not immobilized and their age is known, we propose that an assessment of these injuries may serve as a guide for dating inflicted fractures in young infants, acknowledging that patterns observed in the clavicle may not be entirely generalizable to other bones injured in the setting of abuse.
Materials and methods
One hundred thirty-one radiographs of presumed birth-related clavicular fractures in infants between 0 and 3 months of age were reviewed by two pediatric radiologists with 30 and 15 years’ experience. Readers were asked to evaluate images based on several parameters of fracture healing, with a focus on subperiosteal new bone formation (SPNBF) and callus formation. SPNBF and callus were each evaluated with regard to presence, thickness and character. Responses were correlated with known fracture ages.
SPNBF was rarely seen in fractures less than 7 days old and was most often present by 10 days. Callus formation was rarely seen in fractures less than 9 days old and was most often present by 15 days. SPNBF thickness increased with fracture age and the character of SPNBF evolved from single-layered to solid/multilayered. Callus thickness decreased with fracture age and callus matrix evolved from soft to intermediate to hard in character.
There is an evolution in clavicular fracture healing in young infants that follows a predictable pattern. These findings afford the prospect that predictable patterns of infant clavicular fracture healing can provide an evidence base that may be applicable in cases of suspected infant abuse.
KeywordsRadiography Fracture dating Fracture healing Child abuse Non-accidental trauma Neonate Clavicle
Conflicts of interest
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