Duodenal injuries in the very young: Child abuse?

From the Trauma Services, Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas, Department of Surgery University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Austin, Texas.
The journal of trauma and acute care surgery 01/2013; 74(1):136-42. DOI: 10.1097/TA.0b013e3182788cb2
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Duodenal injuries in children are uncommon but have been specifically linked with child abuse in case reports. Owing to the rarity of the diagnosis, few studies to date have looked at the association between duodenal injuries and mechanism in younger child. We hypothesize that duodenal injuries in the very young are significantly associated with child abuse.
This investigation is a retrospective cohort study of patients admitted with duodenal injuries at one of six Level I pediatric trauma centers. All institutions had institutional review board approval. The trauma registries were used to identify children aged 0 year to 5 years from 1991 to 2011. Multiple variables were collected and included age, mechanism of injury, type of duodenal injury, additional injuries, mortality, and results of abuse investigation if available. Relationships were analyzed using Fischer's exact test.
We identified 32 patients with duodenal injuries with a mean age of 3 years. Duodenal injuries included duodenal hematomas (44%) and perforations/transections (56%). Of all duodenal injuries, 53% resulted in operation, 53% had additional injuries, and 12.5% resulted in death. Of the 32 children presenting with duodenal injuries, 20 were child abuse patients (62.5%). All duodenal injuries in children younger than 2 years were caused by child abuse (6 of 6, p = 0.06) and more than half of the duodenal injuries in children older than 2 years were caused by child abuse (14 of 26). Child abuse-related duodenal injuries were associated with delayed presentation (p = 0.004). There was a significant increase in child abuse-related duodenal injuries during the time frame of the study (p = 0.002).
Duodenal injuries are extremely rare in the pediatric population. This multi-institutional investigation found that child abuse consistently associated with duodenal injuries in children younger than 2 years. The evidence supports a child abuse investigation on children younger than 2 years with duodenal injury.
Epidemiological study, level III.

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    ABSTRACT: Non-accidental trauma (NAT) represents a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in the pediatric population. The management of these patients often involves many care providers including the surgeon. Victims of NAT often present with multiple injuries and as such should be treated as trauma patients with complete trauma evaluation including primary, secondary and tertiary surveys. Common injury patterns in NAT include extremity fractures, closed head injury and intra-abdominal injury. Brain imaging is of importance to rule out acute or sub-acute intracranial hemorrhage. Children under the age of 5 years with acute intracranial pathology should also be evaluated by an ophthalmologist to rule out retinal hemorrhages, which are considered pathognomonic for child abuse from violent shaking. In instances when abdominal injury is suspected, prompt evaluation by a surgeon is recommended along with CT imaging. Finding of extremity fractures should prompt evaluation by an orthopedic surgeon. At our institution, all patients with suspected NAT are admitted to the pediatric surgery service for complete evaluation and management. We encourage other pediatric trauma centers to employ a similar approach so that these complicated patients are managed safely and effectively.
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