Abusive head trauma in young children: characteristics and medical charges in a hospitalized population

Child Abuse Negl. 2004 Oct;28(10):1099-111. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2004.06.006.


Objective: To describe the presenting characteristics, hospital course, and hospital charges associated with hospital admissions for head trauma in young children at a regional pediatric trauma center, and to examine whether these factors differ among abused and non-abused subjects.

Method: Comparative case series study involving a retrospective medical record review of children less than 3 years of age admitted to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh from January 1, 1995 to December 31, 1999. Subjects (n=377) were identified on the basis of ICD-9-CM codes for head injury. Subjects were classified as abused or non-abused based on standard criteria using information about the type of injuries, the history provided by the caretaker, and physical and radiographic findings.

Results: Eighty nine (23.6%) subjects were classified as abused and 288 (76.4%) were classified as non-abused. Abused subjects were more likely then non-abused subjects to be <1 year of age (vs. >1 year of age) (OR: 9.8; 95% CI: 5.0, 19.2), covered by Medicaid (vs. commercial insurance) (OR: 2.8; 95% CI: 1.7, 4.8), and admitted to the ICU (OR: 3.5; 95% CI: 2.1, 5.8; p<.001). The caretakers of abused subjects were more likely to give a history of no trauma or minor trauma compared to the caretakers of non-abused subjects (97% vs. 54%, p<.001). Length of stay was significantly greater for abused subjects versus non-abused subjects (mean: 9.25 days vs. 3.03 days, p<.001). Hospital charges (1999 dollars) were significantly higher for abused (mean+/-SD: 40,082 dollars +/- 58,004 dollars) versus non-abused (mean +/- SD: 15,671 dollars +/- 41,777 dollars) subjects.

Conclusions: These results highlight the differences in the demographics, presenting characteristics and economic impact of abusive head injuries compared to non-abusive head injuries.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Child Abuse* / classification
  • Child Abuse* / statistics & numerical data
  • Child, Preschool
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / classification*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / etiology
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / economics
  • Hospitals, Pediatric
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Medical Records
  • Pennsylvania / epidemiology