Infant head trauma from abuse doubled during recent recession

April 29, 2011

A new study examining the relationship between child abuse and economic hardship shows that severe or fatal head trauma injuries in infants doubled during the recent recession and occurred without any increase in overall traumas.

A new study examining the relationship between child abuse and economic hardship shows that severe or fatal head trauma injuries in infants doubled during the recent recession and occurred without any increase in overall traumas.

The preliminary findings were presented in Denver, Colorado, at the 2011 American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) 79th Annual Scientific Meeting.

Researchers at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, in Cleveland, Ohio, analyzed cases of 639 infants younger than 2 years (mean age, 5.7 months) admitted to the institution for traumatic injuries during a nonrecession period from December 2001 to November 2007 and during the recent recession from December 2007 to June 2010. Among the study population, 93 infants (14.7%) had nonaccidental head trauma (NAHT). More than half the infants were male.

Data showed that NAHT monthly incidence rates doubled from nonrecession to recession periods (50 cases per 72 months [0.69] vs 43 cases per 31 months [1.39], respectively). At least 1 NAHT was reported in 68% of the months occurring in the recession period compared with 44% of months during the nonrecession period. In addition, more infants suffered severe brain injury or died from their head traumas (19.5% and 11.6%, respectively) during hospitalization in the recession period than in the nonrecession months (4.0% and 4.0%, respectively).

The researchers note that although economic factors appear to correlate with the increase of NAHT in infants presenting to their institution, the etiology of the rise in NAHT in this vulnerable population is beyond the scope of their study and warrants further investigation.

Huang MI, O’Riordan MA, Fitzenrider E, McDavid L, Robinson S. Rise in non-accidental head trauma incidence and severity in infants associated with economic recession. Paper presented at: 2011 American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) 79th Annual Scientific Meeting; April 9-13, 2011; Denver, CO.