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Arch Dis Child. 2010 Mar;95(3):214-8. doi: 10.1136/adc.2008.151654. Epub 2009 Sep 21.

Screening for child abuse at emergency departments: a systematic review.

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Department of Public Health, Erasmus MC, University Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.



Child abuse is a serious problem worldwide and can be difficult to detect. Although children who experience the consequences of abuse will probably be treated at an emergency department, detection rates of child abuse at emergency departments remain low.


To identify effective interventions applied at emergency departments that significantly increase the detection rate of confirmed cases of child abuse.


This review was carried out according to the Cochrane Handbook. Two reviewers individually searched PubMed, the Cochrane Library, EMBASE, Web of Science and CINAHL for papers that met the inclusion criteria.


Fifteen papers describing interventions were selected and reviewed; four of these were finally included and assessed for quality. In these studies the intervention consisted of a checklist of indicators of risk for child abuse. After implementation, the rate of detected cases of suspected child abuse increased by 180% (weighted mean in three studies). The number of confirmed cases of child abuse, reported in two out of four studies, showed no significant increase.


Interventions at emergency departments to increase the detection rate of cases of confirmed child abuse are scarce in the literature. Past study numbers and methodology have been inadequate to show conclusive evidence on effectiveness.

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