Child Abuse by Burning—An Index of Suspicion


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Abstract

Although general awareness of child abuse is increasing, abuse by burning is often unrecognized. Seventy-one consecutive children admitted with inflicted burns were studied. Mean age was 1.8 yrs and mean burn size was 13.5%. Mean length of stay was 18.9 days. Scalds (83% from tap water) were the most frequent cause of injury. An immersion pattern was present in 59%; six patients had a classic forced immersion injury. Fourteen children had nonburn trauma. Four patients died: all had tap water immersion burns.Inflicted burns are usually manifested by characteristic patterns of injury, which must be correlated with the given history. When compared with accidentally burned children, abused children were significantly younger, had longer hospital stays, and had a higher mortality. A team approach to child abuse with the addition of a specially trained group is important to insure prompt recognition, more objective appraisals, and further followup.

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