Reducing missed abusive head trauma in pediatric intensive care units

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Abusive head trauma (AHT) is one of the leading causes of traumatic death and disability in infants and young children in the United States. A missed diagnosis can lead to death if the child is mistakenly returned to an abusive situation.

For the first time, Penn State researchers, including lead investigator Dr. Kent Hymel, professor of pediatrics at Penn State College of Medicine, have conducted a randomized control trial of a validated and evidence-based child abuse screening tool. Their work appears in the current issue of The Journal of Pediatrics.

“Our young medical subspecialty of child abuse pediatrics is working to establish best practices for the evaluation and diagnosis of child maltreatment,” said Hymel, who also is a co-funded faculty member of the Child Maltreatment Solutions Network. “Some pediatric physicians are hesitant to screen for abuse because launching an evaluation can stigmatize parents, increase stress, strain the doctor-parent relationship, increase hospital costs, and lengthen hospital stays.”

The work was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and  Penn State Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

 

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