Educational paper: imaging child abuse: the bare bones

Eur J Pediatr. 2012 Feb;171(2):215-24. doi: 10.1007/s00431-011-1499-1. Epub 2011 Jun 1.


Fractures are reported to be the second most common findings in child abuse, after skin lesions such as bruises and contusions. This makes careful interpretation of childhood fractures in relation to the provided clinical history important. In this literature review, we address imaging techniques and the prevailing protocols as well as fractures, frequently seen in child abuse, and the differential diagnosis of these fractures. The use of a standardised protocol in radiological imaging is stressed, as adherence to the international guidelines has been consistently poor. As fractures are a relatively common finding in childhood and interpretation is sometimes difficult, involvement of a paediatric radiologist is important if not essential. Adherence to international guidelines necessitates review by experts and is therefore mandatory. As in all clinical differential diagnoses, liaison between paediatricians and paediatric radiologists in order to obtain additional clinical information or even better having joint review of radiological studies will improve diagnostic accuracy. It is fundamental to keep in mind that the diagnosis of child abuse can never be solely based on radiological imaging but always on a combination of clinical, investigative and social findings. The quality and interpretation, preferably by a paediatric radiologist, of radiographs is essential in reaching a correct diagnosis in cases of suspected child abuse.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Abuse / diagnosis*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Fractures, Bone / diagnosis
  • Fractures, Bone / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed