Patterns of Osteopontin Expression in Abusive Head Trauma Compared with Other Causes of Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury

J Pediatr. 2020 Dec:227:170-175. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2020.06.080. Epub 2020 Jul 2.


Objective: To examine levels of plasma osteopontin (OPN), a recently described neuroinflammatory biomarker, in children with abusive head trauma (AHT) compared with children with other types of traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Study design: The study cohort comprised children aged <4 years diagnosed with TBI and seen in the intensive care unit in a tertiary children's hospital. Patients were classified as having confirmed or suspected AHT or TBI by other mechanisms (eg, motor vehicle accidents), as identified by a Child Protection Team clinician. Serial blood samples were collected at admission and at 24, 48, and 72 hours after admission. Levels of OPN were compared across groups.

Results: Of 77 patients identified, 24 had confirmed AHT, 12 had suspected AHT, and 41 had TBI. There were no differences in the Glasgow Coma Scale score between the patients with confirmed AHT and those with suspected AHT and those with TBI (median score, 4.5 vs 4 and 7; P = .39). At admission to the emergency department, OPN levels were significantly higher in children with confirmed AHT compared with the other 2 groups (mean confirmed AHT, 471.5 ng/mL; median suspected AHT, 322.3 ng/mL; mean TBI, 278.0 ng/mL; P = .03). Furthermore, the adjusted mean trajectory levels of OPN were significantly higher in the confirmed AHT group compared with the other 2 groups across all subsequent time points (P = <.01).

Conclusions: OPN is significantly elevated in children with confirmed AHT compared with those with suspected AHT and those with other types of TBI. OPN expression may help identify children with suspected AHT to aid resource stratification and triage of appropriate interventions for children who are potential victims of abuse.

Keywords: child abuse; head trauma; trauma.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / blood*
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / metabolism
  • Child Abuse* / diagnosis
  • Child, Preschool
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / blood*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / diagnosis
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Osteopontin / biosynthesis
  • Osteopontin / blood*
  • Prospective Studies


  • Osteopontin