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Abusive head trauma: recognition and the essential investigation
  1. Alison M Kemp
  1. Correspondence to Professor Alison M Kemp, Department of Child Health, Cardiff University, University Hospital of Wales, Heath Park, Cardiff CF14 4XW, UK; kempam{at}


Abusive head trauma (AHT) affects one in 4000–5000 infants every year and is one of the most serious forms of physical child abuse that has a high associated mortality and morbidity. Differentiating this form of abuse from another potential cause of brain injury is of utmost importance to the welfare of the child concerned and it is essential that the condition is correctly diagnosed. This article describes the evidence base behind the associated historical, clinical and neuroradiological features of AHT and spinal injury in physical abuse and sets out an algorithm of essential investigations that should be performed in any infant or young child where AHT is suspected.

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  • Funding NSPCC.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.