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Radiology. 2012 Jan;262(1):216-23. doi: 10.1148/radiol.11102390. Epub 2011 Nov 8.

Spinal subdural hemorrhage in abusive head trauma: a retrospective study.

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Department of Radiology, Penn State University College of Medicine, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, 500 University Dr, Hershey, PA 17033, USA.



To compare the relative incidence, distribution, and radiologic characteristics of spinal subdural hemorrhage after abusive head trauma versus that after accidental trauma in children.


This study received prior approval from the Human Subjects Protection Office. Informed consent was waived. This study was HIPAA compliant. Two hundred fifty-two children aged 0-2 years treated for abusive head trauma at our institute between 1997 and 2009 were identified through retrospective chart review. A second group of 70 children aged 0-2 years treated at our institute for well-documented accidental trauma between 2003 and 2010 were also identified through retrospective chart review. All clinical data and cross-sectional imaging results, including computed tomographic and magnetic resonance imaging of the brain, spine, chest, abdomen, and pelvis, were reviewed for both of these groups. A Fisher exact test was performed to assess the statistical significance of the proportion of the spinal canal subdural hemorrhage in abusive head trauma versus that in accidental trauma.


In the abusive head trauma cohort, 67 (26.5%) of 252 children had evaluable spinal imaging results. Of these, 38 (56%) of 67 children had undergone thoracolumbar imaging, and 24 (63%) of 38 had thoracolumbar subdural hemorrhage. Spinal imaging was performed in this cohort 0.3-141 hours after injury (mean, 23 hours ± 27 [standard deviation]), with 65 (97%) of 67 cases having undergone imaging within 52 hours of injury. In the second cohort with accidental injury, only one (1%) of 70 children had spinal subdural hemorrhage at presentation; this patient had displaced occipital fracture. The comparison of incidences of spinal subdural hemorrhage in abusive head trauma versus those in accidental trauma was statistically significant (P < .001).


Spinal canal subdural hemorrhage was present in more than 60% of children with abusive head trauma who underwent thoracolumbar imaging in this series but was rare in those with accidental trauma.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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