Abusive Head Trauma in Young Children: A Population-Based Study

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The objectives of this study were to provide population-based incidence estimate of abusive head trauma (AHT) in children aged 0 to 5 years from inpatient and emergency department (ED) and identify risk characteristics for recognizing high-risk children to improve public health surveillance.


This was a retrospective cohort study based on children’s first encounter in ED or hospital admission with a diagnosis of head trauma (HT), 2000–2010. The relationship between clinical markers and AHT was examined controlling for covariables in the model using Cox hazards regression. Kaplan-Meier incidence probability was plotted, and the number of weeks elapsing from date of birth to the first encounter with HT established the survival time (T).


Twenty-six thousand six hundred eighty-one children had HT, 502 (1.8%) resulted from abuse; 42.4% was captured from ED. Incidence varied from 28.9 (95% confidence interval [CI], 27.9–37.4) in infants to 4.1 (95% CI, 2.4–5.7) in 5-year-olds per 100,000 per year. Adjusted hazard ratio was 20.3 (95% CI, 10.9–38.0) for intracranial bleeding and 11.4 (95% CI, 8.57–15.21) for retinal hemorrhage.


Incidence estimates of AHT are incomplete without including ED. Intracranial bleeding is a cardinal feature of AHT to be considered in case ascertainment to improve public health surveillance.

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