Yield of Retinal Examination in Suspected Physical Abuse with Normal Neuroimaging

Document Type


Publication Date



OBJECTIVE: In some centers, dedicated ophthalmologic examination is performed for all children who are evaluated for potential physical abuse. Although retinal hemorrhages have been reported in rare cases of abused children with normal neuroimaging results, the utility of ophthalmologic examination in this group is currently unknown. The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of retinal hemorrhages in children younger than 2 years who were evaluated for physical abuse and who had no evidence of traumatic brain injury (TBI) on neuroimaging.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: We performed retrospective analysis of data obtained from 1676 children younger than 5 years who were evaluated for potential physical abuse as a part of the Using Liver Transaminases to Recognize Abuse research network. We reviewed results of dedicated ophthalmologic examination in all children younger than 2 years with no evidence of TBI on neuroimaging.

RESULTS: Among 282 children who met inclusion criteria, only 2 (0.7% [95% confidence interval: 0.1%–2.5%]) had retinal hemorrhages considered “characteristic” of abuse. Seven other children (2.5% [95% confidence interval: 1.0%–5.1%]) had a nonspecific pattern of retinal hemorrhages. Both children with characteristic retinal hemorrhages in the absence of TBI showed evidence of head or facial injury on physical examination and/or altered mental status.

CONCLUSIONS: In children younger than 2 years being evaluated for physical abuse without radiographic evidence of brain injury, retinal hemorrhages are rare. Dedicated ophthalmologic examination should not be considered mandatory in this population.



Find in your library

Off-Campus WSU Users