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Forensic Sci Int. 1994 Sep 16;68(2):117-32.

Systemic and ocular findings in 169 prospectively studied child deaths: retinal hemorrhages usually mean child abuse.

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East Carolina University School of Medicine, Department of Pathology, Greenville, NC 27858-4354.


The presence and location of ocular hemorrhages were prospectively studied in 169 randomly selected child deaths referred to a medical examiner. Causes of death in the study group included natural diseases and various injuries involving the head, trunk, and asphyxia. Retinal hemorrhages were identified in 70 cases: 62 head injuries, four central nervous system diseases (but not other natural diseases), and four deaths of undetermined cause. The presence of retinal, peripheral retinal, optic nerve sheath, and intrascleral hemorrhages were strongly associated with head injury as compared to other injuries and natural diseases (Yates corrected P-values < 0.001). Among the head-injured with retinal hemorrhages, nine had a history of severe traumatic event (e.g., an unrestrained rear-seat passenger in high-speed collision) and 53 were victims of inflicted injury (e.g. violent shaking). In the absence of a verifiable history of a severe head injury or life-threatening central nervous system disease, retinal and ocular hemorrhages were diagnostic of child abuse.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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