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Lancet. 2005 Jul 16-22;366(9481):234-5.

Abdominal injury due to child abuse.

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Department of Child Health, Cardiff University, Academic Centre, Llandough Hospital, Penarth CF64 2XX, UK.


Diagnosis of abuse in children with internal abdominal injury is difficult because of limited published work. We aimed to ascertain the incidence of abdominal injury due to abuse in children age 0-14 years. 20 children (identified via the British Paediatric Surveillance Unit) had abdominal injuries due to abuse and 164 (identified via the Trauma Audit and Research Network) had injuries to the abdomen due to accident (112 by road-traffic accidents, 52 by falls). 16 abused children were younger than 5 years. Incidence of abdominal injury due to abuse was 2.33 cases per million children per year (95% CI 1.43-3.78) in children younger than 5 years. Six abused children died. 11 abused children had an injury to the gut (ten small bowel) compared with five (all age >5 years) who were injured by a fall (relative risk 5.72 [95% CI 2.27-14.4]; p=0.0002). We have shown that small-bowel injuries can arise accidentally as a result of falls and road-traffic accidents but they are significantly more common in abused children. Therefore, injuries to the small bowel in young children need special consideration, particularly if a minor fall is the explanation.

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