How are the injuries of physical child abuse characterized?

Updated: Apr 24, 2017
  • Author: Angelo P Giardino, MD, MPH, PhD; Chief Editor: Caroly Pataki, MD  more...
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Physical abuse, a subset of child abuse, is defined in various ways by different states. However, common to all definitions is the presence of an injury that the child sustains at the hands of his or her caregiver. These injuries are also referred to as inflicted or nonaccidental injuries. Some states use broad definitions that encompass a wide range of injuries; other states use more narrow definitions that include specific signs and symptoms. Physical abuse can produce various injuries and injury patterns in children. This article focuses on several common examples of inflicted injury dealing with the skeleton (eg, fractures), skin (eg, burns, bruises), and CNS (eg, subdural hematoma [SDH], abusive head trauma [AHT], shaken baby syndrome [SBS]/shaking-impact syndrome).

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