Utility of three-dimensional and reformatted head computed tomography images in the evaluation of pediatric abusive head trauma

Pediatr Radiol. 2021 May;51(6):927-938. doi: 10.1007/s00247-021-05025-8. Epub 2021 Apr 15.


Skull fractures are common in the pediatric population following head trauma and are estimated to occur post head trauma in 11% of children younger than 2 years. A skull fracture indicates potential underlying intracranial injury and might also help explain the mechanism of injury. Multiple primary and accessory sutures complicate the identification of non-depressed fractures in children younger than 2 years. Detection of linear skull fractures can be difficult on two-dimensional (2-D) CT and can be missed, particularly when the fracture is along the plane of image reconstruction. Knowledge of primary and accessory sutures as well as normal anatomical variants is of paramount importance in identifying pediatric skull fractures with a greater degree of confidence. Acute fractures appear as lucent cortical defects that do not have sclerotic borders, in contrast to sutures, which might demonstrate sclerotic margins. Three-dimensional (3-D) CT has increased sensitivity and specificity for detecting skull fractures and is essential in the evaluation of pediatric head CTs for distinguishing subtle fractures from sutural variants, especially in the setting of trauma. In this review, we present our experience of the use of 3-D reformats in head CT and its implications on the interpretation, especially in the setting of accidental or abusive head trauma.

Keywords: Abusive head trauma; Child abuse; Children; Computed tomography; Fractures; Skull; Sutures; Three-dimensional.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Abuse* / diagnosis
  • Craniocerebral Trauma* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skull Fractures* / diagnostic imaging
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed