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Childs Nerv Syst. 2010 May;26(5):637-45. doi: 10.1007/s00381-009-1048-7. Epub 2009 Nov 28.

Confessed abuse versus witnessed accidents in infants: comparison of clinical, radiological, and ophthalmological data in corroborated cases.

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Department of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Lille University Hospital, Lille, France.



The diagnosis of inflicted head injury (IHI) or accidental trauma (AT) in infants is based on clinical, radiological, and/or ophthalmological findings such as subdural hematoma (SDH), encephalopathy, retinal hemorrhage (RH), and signs of impact. As a consequence, the diagnostic value of these criteria is difficult to assess because of a circularity bias.


In order to assess the predictive value of these diagnostic criteria avoiding circularity, we studied prospectively corroborated cases of head injuries in infants, comparing IHI with AT.


We selected 45 cases of confessed IHI and 39 cases of AT having occurred in public places. Patients were systematically evaluated clinically, with computed tomography scanner and ophthalmological evaluation by a trained ophthalmologist. RH was rated as absent, mild, and severe, according to the depth and extent of the RH.


Brain ischemia was found in 26.7% of IHI; the most prominent elements in favor of IHI were SDH, severe RH, and absence of signs of impact; the predictive diagnostic values of these three features were 0.685, 0.961, and 0.830, respectively; however, only severe RH in the absence of ocular impact was specific of IHI. When all three features were combined, the specificity was 100%, but the sensitivity was only 24.4%.


Our study confirms the high diagnostic value of RH, SDH, and signs of impact for the differential diagnosis between AT and IHI. The evaluation of head injuries in infants requires a high level of awareness and thorough and systematic examination by a trained multidisciplinary team.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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