UMEM Educational Pearls

You just finished assessing a 6 month old in the Pediatric ED who can’t move his right leg.  You suspect child abuse.  You’re ready to order labs, a head CT, ophtho consult, skeletal survey and call Child Protective Services.   While your doing all of this, your medical student asks you, “What exactly are you looking for on the skeletal survey?”

A skeletal survey is mandatory for cases of suspected child abuse in children under the age of 2 years.  Approximately 60% of the fractures seen in abused children are younger than 18 months old.

When you are looking at a skeletal survey, carefully look for the following:

1. Multiple, healing fractures of various ages

2. Rib fractures, especially in the posterior ribs

3. Metaphyseal chip and buckle fractures

4. Spiral fractures in long bones (especially in children that can’t walk)

5. Skull fractures which are not simple and linear

6. Scapula fractures


More to come about child abuse…. 



  1. Mace, SE. Child Physical Abuse: A State-of-The-Art Approach. Pediatric Emergency Medicine Practice. Sept 2004;1(2):1-20.
  2. Zitelli B, Davis H. Atlas of Pediatric Physical Diagnosis. 5th ed