Imaging evaluation of children after falls from a height: review of 45 cases

Radiology. 1990 May;175(2):359-63. doi: 10.1148/radiology.175.2.2326461.


The injury pattern in the child who falls from a height is markedly different from that in the adult, so a different imaging protocol is needed. To help establish such a protocol, the authors reviewed the charts and imaging records of 45 children and infants 12 years of age and younger who had fallen one to six stories. Extremity fractures were the most common injury, occurring in 20 patients. Head injuries (including skull fractures) occurred in 19 patients. Abdominal injuries were present in only one patient. Pneumothoraces were seen in four patients and lung contusions in two patients. Fractures of the pelvis, spine, and os calcis were uncommon. The height of the fall did not enable prediction of either the severity or type of injury. The authors recommend radiography of the cervical spine and chest alone in the initial evaluation of the injured child and greater willingness to obtain computed tomographic (CT) scans of the head in children than in adults. Radiographs of the pelvis, thoracolumbar spine, and lower extremities, as well as CT scans of the head and abdomen, should be obtained on a case-by-case basis, and not according to protocol, as is often the situation in adults.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Injuries / diagnostic imaging
  • Accidental Falls*
  • Accidents*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / diagnostic imaging
  • Fractures, Bone / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Pelvis / diagnostic imaging
  • Pelvis / injuries
  • Spinal Injuries / diagnostic imaging
  • Thoracic Injuries / diagnostic imaging
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Wounds and Injuries / diagnostic imaging*