Child abuse and metabolic bone                                         ficiency, such as deficient copper intake associate...
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Child abuse and confusion surrounding metabolic bone disease

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Child abuse and confusion surrounding metabolic bone disease

  1. 1. Child abuse and metabolic bone ficiency, such as deficient copper intake associated with extreme prematurity or malnutrition, or of disease: are they often confused? osteopenia, delayed bone age, refractory hypochromic anaemia, or neutropenia was found in any of the 10 children in whom it had been suggested. There L S Taitz were two premature infants. Neither had been fed parenterally and neither showed evidence ofosteopeniaChildrens Hospital, It has been claimed that children with fractures or rickets. Temporary brittle bone disease wasSheffield SlO 2TH (usually multiple) attributed to child abuse may in fact proposed as a diagnosis for seven children. TheL S Taitz, MD, senior lecturer have metabolic bone diseases, such as osteogenesis fractures ceased immediately the children were placedin paediatrics imperfecta. 2 I report a series of court cases brought in foster care. All had additional evidence of abuse.(Dr Taitz died on between 1981 and 1990 in which I was asked for a Additional evidence of abuse was present in 17 cases17 January) (table). In 20 cases the courts decided that the fractures further opinion on this question. were due to child abuse; in the remaining two, inBM] 1991;302:1244 which the fractures were due to proved osteogenesis Subjects, methods, and results imperfecta type I, there was other evidence of abuse. I assessed 22 infants and children with fractures The children were placed in foster care and only one (mean age 6 months) who were the subjects of further fracture occurred, four years after placement, proceedings for child protection (19) or whose parents when the child fell off a wall. had been charged with causing their injuries (three). I Evidence of child abuse in children and infants with unexplained scrutinised the medical notes, court papers, and x ray fractures films for evidence of metabolic bone disease, particu- larly osteogenesis imperfecta (using the classification of Brain damage 1 Sillence et al3), copper deficiency,4 metabolic disease Multiple evidence ofabuse and neglect Subdural haemorrhage 2 2 of prematurity, and "temporary brittle bones." Facial bruises and torn frenulum 2 Fourteen children had at least one rib fracture, Multiple bruises and oral injury 1 Multiple bruises which was associated with limb fractures in 10 and with Previous bruising suggestive of non-accidental injury 5 I limb and skull fractures in one. Sixteen children had Neglect 2* Confession by perpetrator rib fractures or metaphyseal fractures, or both, which Fractures only I 5 are characteristic of non-accidental injury. Absence of bruising at the site of the fracture in 10 children was *Fractures proved to be due to type IA osteogenesis imperfecta. claimed to be evidence for metabolic bone disease, but nine had clear additional evidence of non-accidental injury. The diagnoses suggested as alternatives to Comment non-accidental injury were osteogenesis imperfecta In cases that have reached the stage of court in nine children, prematurity in two, and copper proceedings the likelihood that a form of brittle bone deficiency in two. In eight children osteogenesis disease has been missed is small, and with a careful imperfecta, copper deficiency, and temporary brittle history, complete examination, and appropriate bone disease were all offered as alternative diagnoses. investigations there is usually no difficulty in excluding In two patients, who were siblings, type I osteo- these very rare conditions. Absence of bruising at the genesis imperfecta had been diagnosed by the site of fracture is irrelevant to deciding whether a paediatrician. No other child had any first order fracture is traumatic or not. In none of the children features of osteogenesis imperfecta-namely, recurrent in this series was there convincing evidence of unexplained fractures while in foster care, blue sclerae osteogenesis imperfecta, copper deficiency, or any in both the child and a parent, a history of recurrent metabolic bone disease. fractures in one parent, multiple wormian bones, or dentinogenesis imperfecta. Second order features of I Paterson CR, McAllion S. Osteogenesis imperfecta in the differential diagnosis ofchild abuse. BMJ 1989;299:14514. osteogenesis imperfecta, such as joint hypermobility, 2 Taitz LS. Child abuse and osteogenesis imperfecta. BM7 1988;296:292. or discoloured sclerae in a child under 6 months, were 3 Sillence DO, Senn A, Danks DM. Genetic heterogeneity in osteogenesis reported in several cases but were either unconfirmed imperfecta. I Med Genet 1979;16:101-16. BMJ 1989;295:213. or not diagnostic in the absence of first order features. 4 Taitz LS.CR. Childdeficiency copper deficiency?fractures in infants. Child Abuse 5 Paterson Copper abuse or and unexplained Apart from the fractures, the bones were radiologically Review 1987;1:6. normal in all except the two children with type I osteogenesis imperfecta. No evidence of copper de- (Accepted 20January 1991) The medical problems of compressed air diving are Decompression sickness in fish reviewed elsewhere. Decompression sickness isTweeddale MedicalPractice, Fort William farm workers: a new caused by the release of dissolved nitrogen from tissues during and after the ascent phase of the dive. The,PH33 6EUJ D M Douglas, MRCGP, occupational hazard principal manifestations are joint pain or impairmentgeneral practitioner of central nervous system function shortly after J D M Douglas, A H Milne surfacing. Delay in starting recompression treatmentRobert Gordons Institute may cause spinal paraplegia or cerebral damage. Usingof Technology, Aberdeen decompression tables reduces the likelihood ofAB2 3BJ Fish farming is a new industry that needs divers to decompression sickness by predicting ascent rates andA H Milne, MRCGP, senior maintain the cages in which the fish are kept. Dead fish stoppages for given times and depths.medical adviser, survival in a cage provide a focus of infection for healthy fishcentre and must be cleared out regularly. Some fish farmersCorrespondence to: think that the most effective method of clearing dead Case reportsDr Douglas. fish is with divers, but this new diving practice also has Case I-In a series of nine descents and ascents to its problems. We report three anomalous cases of and from 18 metres without decompression stops diver 1BMJ 1991;302:1244-5 decompression sickness. cleared six cages and after a surface interval of three 1244 BMJ VOLUME 302 25 MAY 1991

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