Nonaccidental trauma in pediatric patients: evidence-based screening criteria for ophthalmologic examination

J AAPOS. 2020 Aug;24(4):226.e1-226.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.jaapos.2020.03.012. Epub 2020 Aug 19.


Background: Ophthalmologic examination is included in the work-up for pediatric nonaccidental trauma (NAT) when there is concern for retinal hemorrhage. However, dilated fundus examination entails patient discomfort and prohibition of assessment of pupillary response. Previous studies have suggested that patients without neuroimaging abnormalities are unlikely to have retinal hemorrhage. The purpose of the current study was to analyze the findings in patients who received NAT evaluation with eye examination at our institution, and to propose screening criteria for inclusion of ophthalmologic examination in NAT evaluation.

Methods: The medical records of patients who received NAT evaluation with ophthalmologic examination at The Johns Hopkins Children's Center Pediatric Emergency Department from August 2014 to July 2018 were reviewed retrospectively. Data collected included demographics, presenting symptoms, imaging findings, and ophthalmologic examination findings. The main outcome measure was presence of retinal hemorrhage.

Results: A total of 192 evaluations with ophthalmologic examination were included, representing 190 unique individuals of mean age 8.4 ± 9.5 months at presentation. In approximately half (54%) of the evaluations, there were abnormal findings on neuroimaging. Fifteen children (8%) had retinal hemorrhage, all of whom also had abnormal neuroimaging. Abnormal neuroimaging was associated with presence of retinal hemorrhage, with an odds ratio of 21.0 (95% CI, 3.47-∞; P < 0.001). Of the 15 children with retinal hemorrhage, 14 had subdural hemorrhage.

Conclusions: When neuroimaging abnormalities are present, ophthalmologic examination should be performed as part of the pediatric NAT evaluation. When there is no evidence of head injury on neuroimaging, ophthalmologic examination should not be routine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Abuse* / diagnosis
  • Craniocerebral Trauma* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Physical Examination
  • Retinal Hemorrhage / diagnosis
  • Retinal Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Retrospective Studies