Temporary brittle bone disease: relationship between clinical findings and judicial outcome

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Colin R. Paterson *
Elizabeth A. Monk
(*) Corresponding Author:
Colin R. Paterson | c.s.paterson@btinternet.com

Abstract

There is a wide differential diagnosis for the child with unexplained fractures including non-accidental injury, osteogenesis imperfecta and vitamin D deficiency rickets. Over the last 20 years we and others have described a self-limiting syndrome characterised by fractures in the first year of life. This has been given the provisional name temporary brittle bone disease. This work had proved controversial mostly because the fractures, including rib fractures and metaphyseal fractures, were those previously regarded as typical or even diagnostic of non-accidental injury. Some have asserted that the condition does not exist. Over the years 1985 to 2000 we investigated 87 such cases with fractures with a view to determining the future care of the children. In 85 of these the judiciary was involved. We examined the clinical and radiological findings in the 33 cases in which there was a judicial finding of abuse, the 24 cases in which the parents were exonerated and the 28 cases in which no formal judicial finding was made. The three groups of patients were similar in terms of demographics, age at fracturing and details of the fractures. The clinical similarities between the three groups of patients contrasts with the very different results of the judicial process.

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