Which burn patterns are characteristic of physical child abuse?

Updated: Apr 24, 2017
  • Author: Angelo P Giardino, MD, MPH, PhD; Chief Editor: Caroly Pataki, MD  more...
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Burn patterns that may suggest physical maltreatment include the following:

  • Patterned contact burns in clear shape of hot object (eg, fork, clothing iron, curling iron, cigarette lighter)

  • Classic forced immersion burn pattern with sharp stocking-and-glove demarcation and sparing of flexed protected areas

  • Splash/spill burn patterns not consistent with history or developmental level

  • Cigarette burns

  • Bilateral or mirror image burns

  • Localized burns to genitals, buttocks, and perineum (especially at toilet-training stage)

  • Evidence for excessive delay in seeking treatment, and the presence of other forms of injury

See Clinical Presentation for more detail.

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