Retrospective review to determine the utility of follow-up skeletal surveys in child abuse evaluations when the initial skeletal survey is normal

BMC Res Notes. 2011 Sep 12;4:354. doi: 10.1186/1756-0500-4-354.

Abstract

Objective: The AAP recommends that a follow-up skeletal survey be obtained for all children < 24 months of age who are strongly suspected to be victims of abuse. The objective of the current study was to evaluate the utility of a follow-up skeletal survey in suspected child physical abuse evaluations when the initial skeletal survey is normal.

Methods: A retrospective review of radiology records from September 1, 1998 - January 31, 2007 was conducted. Suspected victims of child abuse who were < 24 months of age and received initial and follow-up skeletal surveys within 56 days were enrolled in the study. Children with a negative initial skeletal survey were included for further analysis.

Results: Forty-seven children had a negative initial skeletal survey and were included for analysis. The mean age was 6.9 months (SD 5.7); the mean number of days between skeletal surveys was 18.7 (SD 10.1)Four children (8.5%) had signs of healing bone trauma on a follow-up skeletal survey. Three of these children (75%) had healing rib fractures and one child had a healing proximal humerus fracture. The findings on the follow-up skeletal survey yielded forensically important information in all 4 cases and strengthened the diagnosis of non-accidental trauma.

Conclusion: 8.5 percent of children with negative initial skeletal surveys had forensically important findings on follow-up skeletal survey that increased the certainty of the diagnosis of non-accidental trauma. A follow-up skeletal survey can be useful even when the initial skeletal survey is negative.