A retrospective review of 207 patients younger than 6 years of age who sustained nonpathologic diaphyseal femur fractures was done, which emphasized the characteristics of accidental versus nonaccidental injury. There were 214 fractures in 123 boys and 83 girls (the gender of one patient was unknown). The average age of the patients was 2.73 years. Mechanisms of injury were pedestrian struck by a car (62 patients), falls (92 patients), and motor vehicle accidents (10 patients). Nineteen patients did not have a history of trauma. Seventy-six cases were investigated for child abuse. The results of 13 investigations were positive. Overall, the morphologic features of the fractures were transverse (38%), spiral (27%), and oblique (17%). In the investigated group, 27% of the fractures were transverse, 39% were spiral, and 15% were oblique. In those cases with positive results of the investigation, 36% of the fractures were transverse, 36% were spiral, and 7% were oblique. Although transverse fractures are most common in accidental and nonaccidental injuries, many practitioners think spiral fractures are pathognomonic of abuse. The current data show that although spiral fractures were less common than transverse fractures overall, and no more common in the cohort of patients in whom the results of the child abuse investigations were positive, they were overrepresented in the cohort that was investigated. This suggests that spiral fractures are viewed as particularly suspicious, which may lead to missed cases of nonaccidental injury in children with transverse fractures.

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