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J Bone Miner Res. 2004 Dec;19(12):1976-81. Epub 2004 Sep 20.

Epidemiology of childhood fractures in Britain: a study using the general practice research database.

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MRC Epidemiology Resource Centre, University of Southampton, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK.


A population-based British cohort study, including approximately 6% of the population, was used to derive age- and sex-specific incidence rates of fractures during childhood. Fractures were more common among boys than girls, with peak incidences at 14 and 11 years of age, respectively. At childhood peak, incidence rates were only surpassed later in life at 85 years of age among women and never among men.


Fractures account for 25% of accidents and injuries in childhood; however, the descriptive epidemiology of childhood fractures remains uncertain.


Age- and sex-specific incidence rates for fractures at various skeletal sites were derived from the General Practice Research Database (a population-based British cohort containing computerized medical records of approximately 7,000,000 residents) between 1988 and 1998.


A total of 52,624 boys and 31,505 girls sustained one or more fractures over the follow-up period, for a rate of 133.1/10,000 person-years. Fractures were more common in boys (161.6/10,000 person-years) than girls (102.9/10,000 person-years). The most common fracture in both sexes was that of the radius/ulna (30%). Fracture incidence was greater among boys than girls at all ages, with the peak incidence at 14 years of age among boys and 11 years of age among girls. Marked geographic variation was observed in standardized fracture incidence, with significantly (p < 0.01) higher rates observed in Northern Ireland, Wales, and Scotland compared with southeast England.


Fractures are a common problem in childhood, with around one-third of boys and girls sustaining at least one fracture before 17 years of age. Rates are higher among boys than girls, and male incidence rates peak later than those among females. At their childhood peak, the incidence of fractures (boys, 3%; girls, 1.5%) is only surpassed at 85 years of age among women and never among men. The most common site affected in both genders is the radius/ulna. Studies to clarify the pathogenesis of these fractures, emphasizing bone fragility, are now required.

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