Are retinal hemorrhages found after resuscitation attempts? A study of the eyes of 169 children

Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 1993 Sep;14(3):187-92. doi: 10.1097/00000433-199309000-00003.


Resuscitation attempts have been hypothecated to explain retinal hemorrhages in infants who are suspected victims of child abuse. This study was undertaken to test that hypothesis by postmortem ocular examinations following unsuccessful resuscitation attempts on a sample of 169 children selected by 19 prosectors willing to contribute to the study. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation had been attempted for a minimum of 30 min in 131 of the children, whereas 38 controls did not have such protracted attempts; 70 children with prolonged resuscitation attempts had no retinal hemorrhages, including eight children whose fatal blunt force injuries of the trunk represented extremes of the forces used in resuscitation attempts. Children who died of asphyxia, respiratory illnesses, sudden infant death syndrome, and various other causes had no hemorrhages; neither did 21 children who died of head injury or central nervous system (CNS) diseases, nor did 29 controls. Retinal hemorrhages were present in 70 children, 61 with prolonged resuscitation attempts and nine controls. Among those with attempted resuscitation, 56 had head injuries, and four had CNS diseases and sepsis, all recognized causes of retinal hemorrhages. The other death that involved a resuscitation attempt and retinal hemorrhages was an officially "undetermined" death. The child had come from a household with two prior child deaths and documented abuse. No case is found in this study to support the hypothesis that retinal hemorrhages are caused by resuscitation attempts.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Resuscitation / adverse effects*
  • Retinal Hemorrhage / etiology*
  • Survival Rate
  • Wounds and Injuries / mortality