Pediatric skull fractures: could suture contact be a sign of abuse?

Emerg Radiol. 2022 Apr;29(2):403-408. doi: 10.1007/s10140-022-02024-6. Epub 2022 Jan 19.


Purpose: Skull fractures in infants and young children can occur as a result of both accidental trauma and abuse. 1/3 of children with abuse-related head trauma and 1/5 of children with abuse-related fractures were overlooked during the initial evaluation. In this study, we aim to investigate the prevalence of skull fractures that come into contact with the suture in head traumas caused by accidents and abuse, and also to see if contact of the fracture line with the suture could be used as a sign for abuse in the pediatric population.

Methods: Forry-four patients with head trauma were retrospectively assessed between January 2010 and June 2020 and were confirmed to have fractures on a brain CT. Patient age, gender, and head injury type were recorded. The fracture site, location and number, the contact of the fracture line with the suture, the name, and number of the suture it came into contact with were determined.

Results: Twenty-eight skull fractures in 22 children with a diagnosis of child abuse and 25 skull fractures in 22 children due to accidental trauma were evaluated in the same age and gender range. Eighteen (64%) of 28 abuse-related skull fractures were in contact with two or more sutures. Two (8%) of 25 accident-related fractures were related to two or more sutures. Abuse-related fractures had a significantly higher suture contact rate than accident-related fractures (p = 0.007).

Conclusion: Contact with two or more sutures of a skull fracture is a finding related to abuse rather than accident.

Keywords: Accidental trauma; Brain CT; Child abuse; Cranial sutures; Skull fracture.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Abuse* / diagnosis
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cranial Sutures* / injuries
  • Craniocerebral Trauma* / complications
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skull Fractures* / diagnostic imaging
  • Skull Fractures* / epidemiology
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed