Biomechanics of the classic metaphyseal lesion: finite element analysis
The classic metaphyseal lesion (CML) is strongly associated with infant abuse, but the biomechanics responsible for this injury have not been rigorously studied. Radiologic and CT-pathological correlates show that the distal tibial CML always involves the cortex near the subperiosteal bone collar, with variable extension of the fracture into the medullary cavity. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the primary site of bone failure is cortical, rather than intramedullary.
This study focuses on the strain patterns generated from finite element modeling to identify loading scenarios and regions of the cortex that are susceptible to bone failure.
Materials and methods
A geometric model was constructed from a normal 3-month-old infant’s distal tibia and fibula. The model’s boundary conditions were set to mimic forceful manipulation of the ankle with eight load modalities (tension, compression, internal rotation, external rotation, dorsiflexion, plantar flexion, valgus bending and varus bending).
For all modalities except internal and external rotation, simulations showed increased cortical strains near the subperiosteal bone collar. Tension generated the largest magnitude of cortical strain (24%) that was uniformly distributed near the subperiosteal bone collar. Compression generated the same distribution of strain but to a lesser magnitude overall (15%). Dorsiflexion and plantar flexion generated high (22%) and moderate (14%) localized cortical strains, respectively, near the subperiosteal bone collar. Lower cortical strains resulted from valgus bending, varus bending, internal rotation and external rotation (8–10%). The highest valgus and varus bending cortical strains occurred medially.
These simulations suggest that the likelihood of the initial cortical bone failure of the CML is higher along the margin of the subperiosteal bone collar when the ankle is under tension, compression, valgus bending, varus bending, dorsiflexion and plantar flexion, but not under internal and external rotation. Focal cortical strains along the medial margins of the subperiosteal bone collar with varus and valgus bending may explain the known tendency for focal distal tibial CMLs to occur medially. Further research is needed to determine the threshold of applied forces required to produce this strong indicator of infant abuse.
KeywordsBiomechanics Child abuse Classic metaphyseal lesion Finite element analysis Microcomputed tomography Subperiosteal bone collar
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflicts of interest
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