The Classic Metaphyseal Lesion and Traumatic Injury

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It is widely accepted that the classic metaphyseal lesion (CML) is a traumatic lesion, strongly associated with abuse in infants. Nevertheless, various non-traumatic origins for CMLs continue to be suggested in medical and legal settings. No studies to date systematically describe the association of CMLs with other traumatic injuries.


The primary objective of this study is to examine the association of CMLs with other traumatic injuries in a large data set of children evaluated for physical abuse.

Materials and methods

This was a retrospectively planned secondary analysis of data from a prospective, observational study of children <120 months of age who underwent evaluation by a child abuse physician. For this secondary analysis, we identified all children ≤12 months of age with an identified CML and determined the number and type of additional injuries identified. Descriptive analysis was used to report frequency of additional traumatic injuries.


Among 2,890 subjects, 119 (4.1%) were identified as having a CML. Of these, 100 (84.0%) had at least one additional (non-CML) fracture. Thirty-three (27.7%) had traumatic brain injury. Nearly half (43.7%) of children had cutaneous injuries. Oropharyngeal injuries were found in 12 (10.1%) children. Abdominal/thoracic injuries were also found in 12 (10.1%) children. In all, 95.8% of children with a CML had at least one additional injury; one in four children had three or more categories of injury.


CMLs identified in young children are strongly associated with traumatic injuries. Identification of a CML in a young child should prompt a thorough evaluation for physical abuse.



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