Medical Child Abuse: Essentials for Pediatric Health Care Providers

J Pediatr Health Care. Nov-Dec 2021;35(6):644-650. doi: 10.1016/j.pedhc.2021.01.006. Epub 2021 Feb 12.


Medical child abuse (MCA) is a rare but potentially deadly variant of child maltreatment. MCA results in unnecessary health care for a child because of a caregiver's exaggeration, fabrication, or induction of physical and/or psychological symptoms of illness. These unnecessary health care interventions result in a morbidity rate of 100% in the form of complications and disabilities and a mortality rate as high as 9%. Although MCA is relatively rare, it is estimated that pediatric health care professionals, including pediatric nurse practitioners, will most likely encounter at least one MCA victim in the course of their career. This continuing education article will discuss MCA in terms of definition and features, epidemiology, perpetrators, variants in presentation, consequences, and implications for practice.

Keywords: Medical child abuse; child maltreatment.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Abuse* / diagnosis
  • Child Abuse* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Pediatric Nurse Practitioners
  • Physical Examination