The importance of surgeon involvement in the evaluation of non-accidental trauma patients

J Pediatr Surg. 2013 Jun;48(6):1357-62. doi: 10.1016/j.jpedsurg.2013.03.035.


Introduction: Non-Accidental Trauma (NAT) is a significant cause of childhood morbidity and mortality, causing 50% of trauma-related deaths at our institution. Our purpose was to evaluate the necessity of primary surgical evaluation and admission to the trauma service for children presenting with NAT.

Methods: We reviewed all NAT patients from 2007-2011. Injury types, demographic data, and hospitalization information were collected. Comparisons to accidental trauma (AT) patients were made using Wilcoxon rank sum and Student's t tests.

Results: We identified 267 NAT patients presenting with 473 acute injuries. Injuries in NAT patients were more severe than in AT patients, and Injury Severity Scores, ICU admission rates, and mortality were all significantly (p<0.001) higher. The majority suffered from polytrauma. Multiple areas of injury were seen in patients with closed head injuries (72%), extremity fractures (51%), rib fractures (82%), and abdominal/thoracic trauma (80%). Despite these complex injury patterns, only 56% received surgical consults, resulting in potential delays in diagnosis, as 24% of abdominal CT scans were obtained >12 hours after hospitalization.

Conclusion: Given the high incidence of polytrauma in NAT patients, prompt surgical evaluation is necessary to determine the scope of injury. Admission to the trauma service and a thorough tertiary survey should be considered for all patients.

Keywords: Child Abuse; Non-accidental Trauma; Pediatrics.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Abuse* / diagnosis
  • Child Abuse* / statistics & numerical data
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Pediatric / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Multiple Trauma / diagnosis
  • Multiple Trauma / epidemiology
  • Multiple Trauma / etiology
  • Multiple Trauma / surgery
  • Patient Admission
  • Registries
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Texas / epidemiology
  • Traumatology
  • Wounds and Injuries / diagnosis
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / etiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / surgery*