Patient and Injury Characteristics in Abusive Abdominal Injuries

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Objective:To identify patient and injury characteristics associated with suspected child abuse in the setting of blunt abdominal trauma.Patients:We extracted from the National Pediatric Trauma Registry phases 2 and 3 (October 1995 to April 2001; N = 106,135) all cases of blunt abdominal injury, excluding motor vehicle injuries, in patients aged 0 to 4 years.Main Outcome Measures:Independent variables included age, mortality, nutritional status, and injury type. The dependent variable was suspected child abuse.Results:Six hundred sixty-four cases were analyzed. The median age of patients was 2.6 years; 11.4% were undernourished. The 3 most common mechanisms of injury were suspected child abuse (40.5%), fall (36.6%), and struck-not child abuse (9.7%). Hepatic injury (46.1%) was the most common intra-abdominal injury, followed by splenic (26%), hollow viscous (17.9%), and pancreatic (8.6%) injuries. Eighty-four percent of deaths were related to suspected child abuse. There was a greater proportion of children with suspected child abuse in every patient and injury characteristics studied than all other mechanisms combined. In a regression model including age, undernourishment, pancreatic injury, hollow viscous injury, traumatic brain injury, and mortality, all variables were significantly associated with suspected abuse. Hollow viscous injury had the highest odds ratio (OR, 9.5; confidence limits, 5.7, 15.8), whereas traumatic brain injury had the lowest (OR, 3.6; confidence limits, 2.4, 5.6).Conclusions:Young children with severe pancreatic or hollow viscous injuries or severe abdominal injuries in the context of either brain injury or undernourishment should be evaluated for the possibility that these injuries resulted from abuse. Increasing the awareness of the possibility of child abuse associated with a set of injury characteristics may allow for more consistent and complete medical evaluation.

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