Controversial aspects of imaging in child abuse: a second roundtable discussion from the ESPR child abuse taskforce

Pediatr Radiol. 2023 Apr;53(4):739-751. doi: 10.1007/s00247-023-05618-5. Epub 2023 Mar 7.


This second roundtable discussion was convened at the 56th European Society of Paediatric Radiology (ESPR) 2022 Annual Meeting in Marseille, France, to discuss controversial aspects of imaging in child abuse. The following topics were discussed: Fracture dating-the published literature is broadly similar with respect to the identification of the radiographic stages of bony healing. The non-expert/general radiologist is encouraged to use broad descriptors of fracture healing (acute, healing or old) within their reports, rather than attempting to date fractures. The more experienced/expert radiologist, who may provide a timeframe/range to assist the courts, should be aware that any published timeframes are not absolute and that recent research indicates that the rate of healing may differ according to the bone affected and the age of the patient. Whole spine imaging in suspected abusive head trauma-this is recommended to enable a complete assessment of the neuraxis when abusive head trauma is suspected or diagnosed, particularly in the presence of intracranial and cervical subdural haemorrhage and cervical ligamentous injury. Cranial imaging in suspected physical abuse-both computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) remain complimentary depending on the clinical context in which they are used with CT remaining first-line in the assessment of children with (suspected abusive) head trauma prior to an early MRI. MRI is superior in its assessment of parenchymal injury and may be employed as first-line in age appropriate asymptomatic siblings of a child with suspected physical abuse.

Keywords: Child abuse; Children; Fractures; Head; Infants; Magnetic resonance imaging; Physical abuse; Radiography; Spine.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Abuse* / diagnosis
  • Craniocerebral Trauma* / diagnosis
  • Fractures, Bone* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Radiology*
  • Retrospective Studies