Age-related mortality in abusive head trauma

Miriam Nuño, Beatrice Ugiliweneza, Renee L. Bardini, Arzu Ozturk, Jacob T. Stephenson, Julia N. Magaña

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND Abusive head trauma (AHT) peaks during early infancy and decreases in toddler years. Infants and toddlers experience different injuries, possibly impacting the risk of mortality. We aimed to evaluate the association of age with mortality. METHODS We conducted a retrospective study of AHT hospitalizations in 2000, 2003, 2006, 2009, and 2012 from the Kid's Inpatient Claims Database. An accidental head trauma cohort was included to hypothesize that the association between age and mortality is unique to abuse. A nested multivariable logistic regression was used to perform the analysis. RESULTS Children aged 2 years to 4 years experienced higher mortality than those younger than 2 years (22% vs. 10%, p < 0.0001; adjusted odds ratio [OR], 1.6; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.1-2.2). The presence of subarachnoid hemorrhage (OR, 1.9; 95% CI, 1.3-2.9), cerebral edema (OR, 4.0; 95% CI, 2.9-5.4), and retinal hemorrhage (OR, 1.9; 95% CI, 1.5-2.5) were associated with an increase risk in mortality. Children younger than 2 years experienced more fractures and hemorrhage (subdural, subarachnoid, retinal) while children aged 2 years to 4 years encountered more internal injuries and cerebral edema. In children with accidental head trauma, those aged 2 years to 4 years have a lower mortality compared with those younger than 2 years (OR, 0.4; 95% CI, 0.3-0.6). Among children younger than 2 years, AHT and accidental trauma had comparable risk of mortality (OR, 0.9; 95% CI, 0.6-1.3). However, among those aged 22 years to 4 years, AHT had a higher risk of mortality than accidental trauma (OR, 3.3; 95% CI, 2.1-5.1). CONCLUSION There is a considerable risk of mortality associated with age at diagnosis in children with AHT. Children younger than 2 years and those aged 2 years to 4 years present with different types of injuries. The high risk of mortality in the children aged 2 years to 4 years is unique to AHT. Efforts should be made to increase awareness about the risk of mortality and identify factors that can aide in a timely accurate diagnosis. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE Prognostic and epidemiological study, level III.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)827-835
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019


  • Abusive head trauma
  • mortality
  • pediatric

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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