Characteristics of Rib Fractures in Child Abuse—The Role of Low-Dose Chest Computed Tomography

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ObjectivesOur aim is to describe the radiologic characteristics of rib fractures in clinically diagnosed cases of child abuse and suggest a complementary imaging for radiographically occult injuries in highly suspicious cases of child abuse.MethodsRetrospective analysis of initial and follow-up skeletal surveys and computed tomography (CT) scans of 16 patients younger than 12 months were reviewed after obtaining approval from our institutional review board. The number, location, displacement, and age of the rib fractures were recorded.ResultsOut of a total 105 rib fractures, 84% (87/105) were detected on the initial skeletal survey. Seventeen percent (18/105) were seen only after follow-up imaging, more than half of which (11/18) were detected on a subsequent CT. Majority of the fractures were posterior (43%) and anterior (30%) in location. An overwhelming majority (96%) of the fractures are nondisplaced.ConclusionsSeventeen percent of rib fractures analyzed in the study were not documented on the initial skeletal survey. Majority of fractures are nondisplaced and located posteriorly or anteriorly, areas that are often difficult to assess especially in the acute stage. The CT scan is more sensitive in evaluating these types of fractures. Low-dose chest CT can be an important imaging modality for suspicious cases of child abuse when initial radiographic findings are inconclusive.

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