Which burn pattern findings should raise suspicion 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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Answer

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) (see image below)

  • 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

    Pattern contact burn on buttocks of diapered child Pattern contact burn on buttocks of diapered child. The burn likely came from the metal grate surrounding heater.

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