Neuroimaging of abusive head trauma

Forensic Sci Med Pathol. 2009 Dec;5(4):280-90. doi: 10.1007/s12024-009-9132-6. Epub 2009 Dec 12.


The diagnostic process for evaluating suspected abusive head trauma in infants and children has evolved with technological advances in neuroimaging. Since Caffey first described a series of children with chronic subdural hematomas and multiple long bone fractures, radiologists have played an important role, along with pediatricians and pathologists, in evaluating abused children. Neuroimaging modalities include ultrasound, CT scans, and MRI technology. Each has distinct clinical applications, as well as practical uses in the clinical diagnostic process of AHT. Importantly, neuroimaging assists in the process of differential diagnosis of other conditions which may mimic AHT. Collaboration between neuroradiologists, clinicians, and pathologists remains critical to making the appropriate diagnosis. Careful history, physical examination, and investigation by legal authorities form the components that result in accurate assessment of any case. This paper reviews pertinent neuroimaging modalities currently utilized in the diagnosis of AHT, describing clinical indications and a collaborative approach to this process.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Abuse / diagnosis*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / diagnosis*
  • Forensic Pathology / methods*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Ultrasonography