The prevalence and distribution of bruising in babies

Arch Dis Child. 1999 Apr;80(4):363-6. doi: 10.1136/adc.80.4.363.


Aim: To obtain a prevalence rate and determine the distribution of accidental bruising in babies.

Methods: 177 babies aged 6-12 months were examined naked to look for bruises. They were seen in health visitor hearing test clinics and child health surveillance clinics. The site, size, shape, and colour of bruises were recorded on a skin map, and the parent's explanation noted. Any other injury was recorded. Data collection included the baby's age, mobility and weight, demographic details, and health visitor concerns.

Results: Twenty two babies had bruises, giving a prevalence rate of 12%. There was a total of 32 bruises, 15 babies had one bruise. All bruises were found on the front of the body and were located over bony prominences. Twenty five of the bruises were on the face and head, and seven were on the shin. The babies with bruises on the shin were mobile. There was a highly significant increase in bruises with increase in mobility.

Conclusions: The study has produced a prevalence and distribution of bruising in babies and sets a baseline from which to work when assessing bruises. It also tested out the methodology, which could be used in further research, particularly of younger babies. Clinicians need to assess a baby's level of development when considering whether a bruise is accidental.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents
  • Child Abuse / diagnosis
  • Contusions / epidemiology
  • Contusions / etiology
  • Contusions / pathology*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • England / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Movement
  • Prevalence