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AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2011 Oct;197(4):1005-8. doi: 10.2214/AJR.11.6540.

Prevalence of the classic metaphyseal lesion in infants at low versus high risk for abuse.

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Department of Radiology, Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, 300 Longwood Ave, Boston, MA 02115, USA.



The purpose of this article is to determine the relative likelihood of encountering a classic metaphyseal lesion in infants at low and high risk for abuse.


This 10-year retrospective study compared the prevalence of the classic metaphyseal lesion on high-detail American College of Radiology-standardized skeletal surveys in infants at low and high risk for abuse. Low-risk infants met all of the following criteria: skull fracture without significant intracranial injury on CT, history of a fall, and no other social risk factors for abuse. High-risk infants met all of the following criteria: significant intracranial injury, retinal hemorrhages, and skeletal injuries (excluding classic metaphyseal lesions and skull fractures). Differences between the two groups were calculated using the Fisher exact test.


There were 42 low-risk infants (age range, 0.4-12 months; mean age, 4.4 months) and 18 high-risk infants (age range, 0.8-10.3 months; mean age, 4.6 months). At least one classic metaphyseal lesion was identified in nine infants (50%) in the high-risk category. No classic metaphyseal lesions were identified in the low-risk group. The relative prevalence of classic metaphyseal lesions in the low-risk group (0/42) versus that in the high-risk group (9/18) was statistically significant (p < 0.0001; 95% CI, 0-8% to 29-76%).


Classic metaphyseal lesions are commonly encountered in infants at high risk for abuse and are rare in infants with skull fractures associated with falls, but no other risk factors. The findings support the view that the classic metaphyseal lesion is a high-specificity indicator of infant abuse.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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