Pediatric Handlebar Injuries: More Than Meets the Abdomen

OBJECTIVES Injuries associated with bicycles can generally be categorized into 2 types: injuries from falling from/off bicycles and injuries from striking the bicycle. In the second mechanism category, most occur as a result of children striking their body against the bicycle handlebar. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the presentation, body location, injury severity, and need for intervention for pediatric handlebar injuries at a single level one pediatric trauma center and contrast these against other bicycle-related injuries in children.
METHODS This work is a retrospective review of the trauma registry over an 8-year period. Individual charts were then reviewed for patients' demographic factors, injury details, and other clinical/radiographic findings. Each patient was then categorized as either having a handlebar versus nonhandlebar injury. Additionally, each patient's injuries were classified according to affected body'zone(s)'and the need for intervention in relation to these injuries. During the course of chart review, several unique radiographic and history/physical findings were noted and are also reported.
RESULTS During the study period, 385 patients were identified that met study criteria. Bicycle handlebars were involved in 27.8% (107/385) of injuries and 72.2% (278/385) were nonhandlebar injuries. There were differences in injury severity score, Head Abbreviated Injury Scale, length of stay between patients with handlebar versus nonhandlebar injuries, respectively. There were also differences in incidence of injuries across most body zones between patients with handlebar versus nonhandlebar injuries. There was statistically significant difference in need for intervention for abdominal solid organ injuries among handlebar versus nonhandlebar injuries mechanisms (21.6% vs 0%; P = 0.026), respectively. Sixteen patients with a handlebar injury underwent abdominal computed tomography (CT), which found only pericolic/pelvic free fluid or were negative for any disease and had normal/mildly elevated liver function test results at the time of arrival with otherwise normal laboratory workup results. Two patients required laparotomy for bowel injury and presented with peritonitis less than 12 hours after injury. The remaining patients did not have peritonitis on examination and were discharged without operative intervention 12 to 24 hours after injury without further event.
CONCLUSIONS The bicycle handlebar is a unique mechanism of injury. The location, need for intervention, and the nature of the injury can vary significantly compared to other bicycle injuries. Handlebar injuries are more likely to cause abdominal and soft tissue injuries, whereas nonhandlebar injuries are more likely to cause extremity and skull/neck/central nervous system injuries. Because more than 20% of the reported handlebar injuries did not involve the abdomen or thoracoabdominal/extremity soft tissue as well as the variable presentation of handlebar injuries, it is imperative for the physician to consider this mechanism in all bicycle injuries. In addition, even within the same area of the body, handlebar injuries can be very different compared to nonhandlebar (i.e., orthopedic vs vascular injuries in the extremities). Physical examination and observation remain paramount when laboratory and radiographic workups are equivocal.

as reported in: Pediatr Emerg Care. 2019 Jan 21 [Epub ahead of print]