Non-accidental fractures in infants: risk of further abuse

J Paediatr Child Health. 2000 Dec;36(6):590-2. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-1754.2000.00592.x.


Objectives: To look for features of non-accidental fractures in infants aged under I year and assess the risk of subsequent morbidity and mortality.

Methodology: A retrospective analysis of 99 children aged under 1 year who presented to the Mater Children's Hospital, Brisbane, between January 1990 and December 1993, and were found to have a fracture. The 99 infants were divided into non-accidental and accidental groups. Comparison was made between the two groups for age, sex and type of fracture. Deaths, subsequent injuries and child protection notifications until March 1997 were compared between groups.

Results: Of the 99 infants with fracture (64 males, 35 female), the skull and femur were the most prevalent sites of fracture. Twenty-six infants had fractures assessed as non-accidental. This group was younger but did not differ significantly in gender or site of fracture. Infants aged under 4 months had a significantly greater risk of their fracture being non-accidental (P = 0.0007). Subsequent substantiated child protection notifications occurred in nine of the non-accidental group and in one of the accidental group (P = 0.000001). There was no significant difference in the rate of subsequent notifications between those infants with abuse who were removed from their carers and those not removed. Subsequent injuries presenting to hospital occurred in 17 of the accidental group and three of the non-accidental group (P = 0.20). There were no deaths.

Conclusion: Infants aged under 1 year with fractures have a high prevalence of abuse. The risk of abuse as cause for the fracture is greater in those aged under 4 months. Infants with non-accidental fractures have a high risk of further abuse even with intervention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents / statistics & numerical data
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Fractures, Bone / epidemiology*
  • Fractures, Bone / etiology
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality
  • Male
  • Morbidity
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors