Friday, March 9, 2012

Vitamin D deficiency rickets and allegations of non-accidental injury

Colin R Paterson
University of Dundee, Dundee, UK

Correspondence to Dr Colin R Paterson, Temple Oxgates, Longforgan, Dundee DD2 5HS, UK. Tel: +44 1382 360240 |


Vitamin D deficiency rickets has long been recognized as a cause of fractures and fracture-like appearances in young children. Often seen in the early 20th century, rickets has recently been regarded as uncommon; the radiological appearances, familiar to previous generations, may not be recognized for what they are.
This article reports four children with unexplained fractures initially attributed confidently to non-accidental injury. In each case, the later evidence of vitamin D deficiency led to a reconsideration of that diagnosis.


It is important to be aware of this bone disorder in the differential diagnosis of fractures, to investigate appropriately and to recognize that the radiological appearances may be misleading. A mistaken diagnosis of abuse does real harm, not least to the child itself.

Received 3 February 2009; revised 26 May 2009; accepted 3 June 2009.

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