The purpose of this study was to examine the current patterns of head trauma associated with child abuse. We reviewed the records of all patients admitted to our medical center between 1995 and 1997 with a primary diagnosis of head trauma, and analyzed the clinical presentation, mechanism of injury, socioeconomic status and outcome for these patients. Head trauma was deliberately inflicted in 38/405 children (9%). There were 25 boys and 13 girls, with a median age of 5.5 months. Two thirds of the families lived in the inner city. Of the 99 children under the age of 2 years admitted for head trauma, the injury was inflicted in 32 (32%). Acute subdural hematoma was present in 22/32 (69%) of children with inflicted trauma, but in only 5/68 (7%) with accidental trauma. Retinal hemorrhages were present in 17/32 (53%) abused children, but in no cases of accidental trauma (0/68). Deliberately inflicted injury is a frequent cause of serious head trauma in young children. Head injury is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the abused child. Child abuse cases correlated strongly with low socioeconomic status. Nonaccidental trauma must be considered strongly in children under 2 years of age who present with acute subdural hematoma in the absence of a history of a motor vehicle accident.

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