Early injuries may predict later abuse in babies
March 21 |
March 21 (Reuters) - Over a quarter of babies brought to one Wisconsin hospital after severe physical abuse had a prior history of minor injuries, according to a U.S. study whose authors suggest early detection may prevent later harm.
Previous studies had already found a link between minor injuries in babies too young to get around on their own and more serious abuses later on, according to researches at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. But no study looked at the number of abused babies who had a history of bruises.
"In that group of definitely abused infants, 27.5 percent of them had that history of relatively minor injuries," said Lynn K. Sheets, the hospital's medical director of child advocacy and protection services.
"That should have and could have raised concerns about abuse, but for whatever reason did not."
For the study, Sheets and her colleagues combined data on four groups of babies younger than 12 months old, who were evaluated for signs of abuse between March 2001 and October 2011 at the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.
Two groups were watched over seven years, and definitely suffered abuse, according to the researchers. Those injuries included head trauma that is typically the result of shaking a baby.
Those groups were then compared to two other groups. One, followed for five years, was a group of babies that may or may not have suffered abuse. The other, followed for four years, was found to have not been abused.
Overall, 55 of the 200 babies who definitely suffered abuse had previous injuries observed by at least one parent. That compared to 8 of the 100 babies who may or may not have been abused, and none of the 101 babies who weren't abused.
The majority of bruises were on the babies' heads, followed by their arms and legs, stomachs and backs.
According to the researchers, who published their results in Pediatrics, 23 of the 55 babies with a history of bruises were reportedly seen b medical providers, but only some of those providers suspected abuse.
"If we recognize these, not only can we protect kids from serious injuries, but sometimes we can help families get the help they need to parent effectively without turning to abuse," said Andrea Asnes, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connectictu.
"It doesn't mean it's definitely abuse, but it warrants some serious looking," said Asnes, who was not involved with the research. For example, doctors could use X-rays or CT scans to look for previous injuries, and refer to protective services if the suspect abuse.
Sheets told Reuters Health that everybody who is involved with a baby should know that bruises are not usually caused by normal handling, and questions and concerns should be raised if they're noticed.
"Not saying they're all abused, but everybody needs to know this if you're ever around a baby... Many medical providers will just see it as a bruise," added Sheets, who said those bruises may be the first sign of abuse. SOURCE: bit.ly/YS7Fj1 (Reporting from New York by Andrew Seaman at Reuters Health; editing by Elaine Lies)
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