Rib fractures have occasionally been described in children receiving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Because child abuse is sometimes suspected in these cases, it is both medically and legally important to establish whether the rib fractures are secondary to abuse or CPR. One hundred thirteen children, including 41 victims of child abuse, 50 patients who had CPR, and 22 patients who had rib fractures, were studied. Twenty-nine patients had rib fractures; 14/29 (48%) were abusive. Other causes of fracture were: motor vehicle accidents (four), rickets/osteoporosis (five), surgery (five), and osteogenesis imperfecta (one). In spite of prolonged resuscitation performed with variable degrees of skill, no fractures could be attributed to CPR. On the other hand, rib fractures occurred frequently in abused children (6/41 or 15%). Abusive fractures were often multiple, of different ages, and affected multiple adjacent ribs. Patients with abusive rib fracture also had other physical and radiologic signs of abuse or neglect.

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