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The Effect of Impact Angle and Fall Height on Skull Fracture Patterns in Infants

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The objectives of this research were to utilize a newly developed linear elastic fracture mechanics finite element model of infant skull fracture to investigate the effect of impact angle and fall height on the predictions of skull fracture patterns in infants.


Skull fracture is a common finding for both accidental and abusive head trauma in infants and young children, and may provide important clues as to the energy and directionality of the event leading to the skull fracture. However, little is understood regarding the mechanics of skull fracture in the pediatric skull, and how accidental fall parameters contribute to skull fracture patterns. Nine impact angles of right parietal bone impacts were simulated from three different heights onto a rigid plate. The average ± standard deviation of the distance between the impact location and fracture initiation site was 8.0 ± 5.9 mm. Impact angle significantly affected the fracture initiation site (p < 0.0001) and orientation (p < 0.0001). A 15 deg variation in impact angle changed the initiation site up to 47 mm. The orientation of the fracture pattern was dependent on the impact location and ran either horizontal or vertical toward the ossification center of the bone. Fall height significantly affected the fracture length (p = 0.0356). Specifically, at the same impact angle, a 0.3 m increase in fall height increased the skull fracture length by 21.39 ± 34.26 mm. These data indicate that environmental variability needs to be carefully considered when evaluating infant skull fracture patterns from low-height falls.  (Publisher abstract provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2021