Child abuse and neglect presentations to a pediatric emergency department

J Emerg Med. 2002 Nov;23(4):341-5. doi: 10.1016/s0736-4679(02)00575-9.


This study describes the epidemiology of reported abuse (physical, sexual, and neglect) in a teaching, metropolitan Pediatric Emergency Department (PED) with approximately 30,000 annual visits. A retrospective chart review was conducted of all cases from the PED that were referred to the Department of Social Work and reported to the Administration for Children's Services (ACS), the New York children's protective services, from May 1996 through December 1998. Demographic information about the victims as well as past medical history, number of previous PED visits, information about the perpetrator and the nature of the injuries were obtained. We identified 106 cases over this period of time that were reported for child abuse or neglect from the PED. Fifty-five percent of cases were reported for suspected physical abuse, 15% for sexual abuse, and 30% for neglect. The suspected perpetrator was the mother in 41% of cases and the father in 21% of cases. Bruises were the most frequent injury reported, seen in 25% of cases. The mean age of the patients was 6.4 years old. They averaged 4.6 previous PED visits. The majority of patients lived near the hospital. Sixty-nine percent of the patients presented for care between the hours of 5 PM and 9 AM. Most of the patients claimed their primary physician was located in a clinic near their home (44%). Only 12.7% were unsure of their primary physician. Significantly more victims (89%) had Medicaid or no insurance compared with other PED patients (71%). Victims did not live in zip codes with lower incomes compared with other PED patients. Upon complete investigation by ACS, 49 cases (46%) were deemed 'indicated,' 21 cases (20%) 'unfounded,' and for the remaining 36 cases (34%) follow-up information could not be determined. The incidence of reported abuse and neglect was lower than previous studies have shown. The majority of reported cases (especially those of sexual abuse) did not have any physical findings at the time of presentation, stressing the need of a careful search for both abuse and neglect.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / diagnosis*
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / diagnosis
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / statistics & numerical data
  • Child Welfare*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Mandatory Reporting*
  • New York / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sex Distribution
  • Urban Population