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Childs Nerv Syst. 2002 Jul;18(6-7):311-7. Epub 2002 Jun 26.

Subdural haematoma and non-accidental head injury in children.

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Department of Paediatric Neurology, Neurosurgery and Neuroradiology, John Radcliffe Hospital, Headley Way, Headington, Oxford OX3 9DU, UK.



In this retrospective study, 36 children referred to paediatric neurology and neurosurgery during April 1995-June 1998 with a diagnosis of subdural haematoma (SDH) were studied. Nine were accidental secondary to witnessed trauma and 4 were iatrogenic. Non-accidental head injury (NAHI) was suspected in the remaining 23 children.


After a full clinical, radiological and social assessment, NAHI was diagnosed in 14, lateral sinus thrombosis in 1, 2 were accepted as accidental and 6 remained unexplained. In the NAHI group (n=14), 12 were between 4 and 16 weeks of age, 12 (85%) had retinal haemorrhages and skeletal surveys showed evidence of additional injury in 8. Computerised tomography (CT) brain scans showed bilateral SDH in 11, and 6 had inter-hemispheric bleeding along with loss of grey-white differentiation. Eleven had magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which yielded additional information in 7. Seven required intensive care, and 2 died. Twelve had surgical aspiration. In the group with no satisfactory explanation for SDH ( n=6); 5 had neonatal problems, all except 1 were older than 5 months of age and not as ill with bilateral, old SDH. All but 1 had skeletal surveys, which were normal, and eye examination showed no retinal haemorrhages. A social services enquiry was non-contributory.


SDH is frequently traumatic whether accidental or non-accidental. SDH due to NAHI tends to present before 4 months of age with an inconsistent history; the patients are more seriously ill and have other findings, such as fractures and retinal haemorrhages. A small subgroup of patients was identified who had isolated, old SDH and in whom full investigation remained inconclusive. A consistent, comprehensive approach needs to be maintained in all cases with the essential backup of detailed neuro-imaging including MRI.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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