Pediatricians and pathologists see traumatic brain injury differently

INDIANAPOLIS -- Confronted with the same hypothetical scenarios of traumatic brain injuries to children, pediatricians and pathologists were unable to agree half the time whether the deaths should be investigated as potential child abuse, researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine found.

The study demonstrates the need for improved, uniform definitions if research is to prevent such abuse, said Antoinette Laskey, M.D., M.P.H., a forensic pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine, and her colleagues. They reported on their efforts to develop a framework to help researchers compare cases in the April issue of the journal Child Abuse and Neglect.

Traumatic brain injury is the leading cause of abusive death in children and is especially common in abused children under the age of 4. Fifteen hundred children a year in U.S. are killed because of traumatic brain injury and those who survive are often devastated.

It is impossible to do randomized controlled studies of abusive head trauma but researchers need to develop improved tools to correctly identify and ultimately prevent this abuse according to Dr. Laskey.

"We have to understand abusive head trauma. Research in the field is in its infancy compared to what we know about other pediatric conditions. We need to increase both the volume and the quality of what we know. We need to know more and we cant until we have pediatricians and pathologists, the doctors who see these children, speaking the same language," said Dr. Laskey.

In their groundbreaking study, Dr. Laskey, a Regenstrief Institute, Inc. affiliated scientist and a member of the Riley Hospital Child Protective Program, and her colleagues showed 16 hypothetical scenarios of traumatic brain injury to 570 pediatricians and pathologists, who were asked to classify them as inflicted, unintentional, or undetermined. To reflect actual experience, some of

Contact: Cindy Fox Aisen
Indiana University

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