Lead pipe fracture

Last revised by Ali Alsmair on 16 Mar 2022

The term lead pipe fracture is the term for a radiographic appearance given to a simultaneous greenstick fracture of one side of the bone (usually metaphysis) with a buckle fracture of the opposing cortex of the same bone. 

There are differing opinions in texts as to whether this term should be reserved for a pediatric injury only (majority viewpoint), or whether adults with similar-appearing fractures may also be given this moniker 1-7.

One text also states that the co-occurrence of a torus fracture in one bone, with the buckle fracture in a different adjacent bone may still be called a lead pipe fracture; this is likely erroneous 4.

Interestingly no primary references in the literature have been found describing this injury pattern. All references listed are textbooks.

History and etymology

Two different explanations for the name of this fracture are found in references:

  1. lead pipe or similar heavy blunt instrument striking a patient's arm may give rise to this pattern of injury, hence its distinctive name 2
  2. the appearance mimics the appearance of a lead pipe when it is suddenly bent, it apparently cracks on one side but only bulges on the other side 3,5

ADVERTISEMENT: Supporters see fewer/no ads

Updating… Please wait.

 Unable to process the form. Check for errors and try again.

 Thank you for updating your details.