Objective: To evaluate the utility of a follow-up skeletal survey in suspected child physical abuse evaluations.
Methods: In this prospective study, follow-up skeletal surveys were recommended for 74 children who, after an initial skeletal survey and evaluation by the Child Abuse Team, were suspected victims of physical abuse. The number and location of the fractures were recorded for the initial skeletal survey and for the follow-up skeletal survey in each case.
Results: Forty-eight of the 74 (65%) children returned for a follow-up skeletal survey. The follow-up skeletal survey yielded additional information in 22 of 48 patients (46%). In three patients (6%) the additional information changed the outcome of cases; child abuse was ruled out in one of these patients and abuse was confirmed in two cases. In three other patients, the follow-up skeletal survey refuted tentative skeletal findings, but did not change the outcome because of other physical findings.
Conclusion: A follow-up skeletal survey identified additional fractures or clarified tentative findings in children who were suspected victims of physical child abuse. The follow-up skeletal survey should be completed on all patients who have an initial skeletal survey performed for suspected physical child abuse and for whom child abuse is still a concern.