Abusive head trauma: a review of the evidence base

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2015 May;204(5):967-73. doi: 10.2214/AJR.14.14191.


Objective: The purpose of this article is to review the constellation of findings of abusive head trauma, which may be accompanied by injuries to the appendicular and axial skeleton, brain and spinal cord, and retina. Additional common features include skin and soft-tissue injury, visceral findings, and evidence of oral trauma.

Conclusion: The evidence base for abusive head trauma encompasses diverse disciplines, including diagnostic imaging, pathology, pediatrics, biomechanics, ophthalmology, epidemiology, and orthopedics. When the varied sources of evidence are pieced together and taken in toto, abusive head trauma is often readily differentiated from alternative explanations of an infant's injuries.

Keywords: abusive head trauma; child abuse; children; head trauma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Child Abuse / diagnosis*
  • Child Abuse / prevention & control
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data
  • Child, Preschool
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / diagnosis*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / epidemiology
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / prevention & control
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Diagnostic Imaging*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn