A needle in a haystack: The use of routinely collected emergency department injury surveillance data to help identify physical child abuse

Deborah Scott, Sue Walker, Jennifer A. Fraser, Kirsten McKenzie

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2 Citations (Scopus)


A retrospective, descriptive analysis of a sample of children under 18 years presenting to a hospital emergency department (ED) for treatment of an injury was conducted. The aim was to explore characteristics and identify differences between children assigned abuse codes and children assigned unintentional injury codes using an injury surveillance database.

Only 0.1% of children had been assigned the abuse code and 3.9% a code indicating possible abuse. Children between 2 and 5 years formed the largest proportion of those coded to abuse. Superficial injury and bruising were the most common types of injury seen in children in the abuse group and the possible abuse group (26.9% and 18.8%, respectively), whereas those with unintentional injury were most likely to present with open wounds (18.4%).

This study demonstrates that routinely collected injury surveillance data can be a useful source of information for describing injury characteristics in children assigned abuse codes compared to those assigned no abuse codes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-235
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion.
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

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