Are There Hallmarks of Child Abuse? I. Osseous Injuries

Acad Forensic Pathol. 2016 Dec;6(4):568-590. doi: 10.23907/2016.056. Epub 2016 Dec 1.


Fractures are commonly found in cases regarded as child abuse. The most commonly encountered fractures are to the ribs and the metaphyses. This paper examines the specificity of the classical metaphyseal lesion (CML) and rib fractures as hallmarks of child abuse. Recently, vitamin D deficiency (rickets) has been proposed as an alternative cause for the appearances typically described in CML. The literature in this area is examined. Rib fractures have also been highly associated with child abuse, particularly posterior rib fractures. As well as metabolic bone disease, resuscitation has been examined as a cause of rib fractures in young children. The current literature remains strongly supportive of rib fractures and metaphyseal fractures being indicators of child abuse.

Keywords: Child abuse; Forensic pathology; Fracture; Metaphyseal; Pathognomonic; Rib.

Publication types

  • Review