Can the height of fall predict long bone fracture in children under 24 months?

Eur J Emerg Med. 2005 Dec;12(6):285-6. doi: 10.1097/00063110-200512000-00008.


Aims: It can be difficult to determine the exact mechanism of injury in infants and babies aged 24 months and under. Falls are the most common mechanism of injury in children. The purpose of this study is to identify the relationship between reported height of fall and long bone fracture.

Methods: All children aged under 24 months who sustained a fracture (in the year 2003) were identified prospectively on the departmental fracture database. These children were matched for age and sex with children identified as having fallen but not having sustained a fracture.

Results: Sixty-three children aged 24 months and under were studied. The median height of fall in this group was 48 cm and that in the control group was 20 cm, P<0.001. A significant correlation was observed between the height of fall (cm) and severity of injury (Pearson's correlation coefficient=0.255). Receiver operating characteristic analysis indicates that the likelihood of significant fracture requiring admission and/or manipulation under anaesthesia occurs with a fall from a height of 56 cm [sensitivity 80% (confidence interval 29-97%), specificity 79% (confidence interval 70-86%)]. It was not possible to identify a height at which the risk of any fracture injury became significantly more likely.

Conclusion: Height of fall is only one factor that must be considered in dealing with fracture injury in children aged 24 months or under. However, significant injury presenting with falls from less than 50 cm should be critically evaluated.

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls*
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Fractures, Bone / classification
  • Fractures, Bone / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • ROC Curve