Inflicted traumatic brain injury: advances in evaluation and collaborative diagnosis

Pediatr Neurosurg. 2007;43(5):436-41. doi: 10.1159/000106400.


The determination that a traumatic brain injury is not accidental requires data collection from multiple domains: historical, clinical, laboratory, radiographic, environmental and psychosocial. These essential, yet disparate, types of information must be synthesized in a collaborative and interdisciplinary process to formulate a medical opinion with regard to the cause of an injury, and the final opinion has tremendous consequences for children and families. Medically directed child protection teams have emerged as the standard of care in many children's hospitals and child abuse pediatrics is now a recognized medical subspecialty with board certification available in the next several years. Not only do the child and family benefit from this coordinated effort, but there are also great benefits for the members of the child protection team: more clearly defined responsibilities, redirected focus on treatment for the surgeon, and increased confidence that the opinion is based upon consensus and current scientific knowledge. By this process and its division of labor, the child abuse pediatrician assumes responsibility for ensuring that a final medical opinion is arrived at, and then advocates for appropriate disposition for the child. The child abuse pediatrician is responsible for establishing institutional standards for family evaluation, collecting all necessary medical data and directing a consensus-based decision making process that is based upon current medical knowledge, medical literature and experience. The child abuse pediatrician also assumes the role of primary communication conduit for investigational agencies and the courts. The neurosurgeon is a key member of the child protection team and relies on the team to obtain necessary historical information to address consistency of the mechanism with the sustained injuries and has an integral role in determining the team's final opinion. An interdisciplinary response to inflicted traumatic brain injury is the cornerstone for establishing a rigorous standard of care; it also fosters education across medical subspecialties where controversy has been a significant part of the landscape. Valid and useful clinical research that describes head injury as accidental or inflicted can only be performed in the context of an interdisciplinary, medically directed child protection team that strives for objectivity and precision in the determination of the manner of an injury.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Brain Injuries / etiology
  • Child
  • Child Abuse*
  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Infant