Multicystic encephalomalacia as an end-stage finding in abusive head trauma

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Abusive head trauma (AHT) is one of the most severe forms of physical child abuse. If a child initially survives severe AHT the neurological outcome can be poor. In recent years several children were seen who developed multicystic encephalomalacia (MCE) after documented severe AHT. A search of the Netherlands Forensic Institute database in The Hague was performed. Inclusion criteria were cases of AHT between 1999 and 2010 where the child was under the age of 1 year old at the time of trauma. Trauma mechanism and radiological information were collected. Five children, three boys and two girls (mean age 57 days, range 8-142 days) who developed cystic encephalomalacia after inflicted traumatic brain injury were included. Survival ranged from 27 to 993 days. In all cases judicial autopsy was performed. All cases came before court and in each case child abuse was considered to be proven. In two cases the perpetrator confessed, during police interrogation, to shaking of the child only. Although a known serious outcome, this is one of the few reports on MCE as a result of AHT. In all cases the diagnosis was confirmed at autopsy.

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