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Confessed Abusive Blunt Head Trauma

De Leeuw, Marc MD*; Beuls, Emile MD*; Parizel, Paul MD, PhD; Jorens, Philippe MD, PhD; Jacobs, Werner MD, PhD*

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology: June 2013 - Volume 34 - Issue 2 - p 130–132
doi: 10.1097/PAF.0b013e31828629ca
Original Articles

It is generally accepted that terms referring to specific craniocerebral injury mechanisms must be replaced by the more general term abusive head trauma (AHT). Although blunt impact trauma remains an essential part of AHT, it has received far less attention in the literature than shaken-impact injuries. The current article presents 19 confessed cases of a series of 47 highly suspected AHT cases. Of these, 13 were confessed shaken-impact cases, and the other 6 confessed blunt trauma cases. There were no significant differences in the appearance of subdural hematoma, which was present in each case. Retinal hemorrhage, which was present in 10 of the 13 shaken-impact cases in which an ophthalmologic examination was conducted, occurred in 2 of the 6 blunt trauma cases. In 1 case, retinal hemorrhage probably had of metabolic origin. Skull fractures with an overlying subgaleal hematoma and a subdural hematoma below the fracture side were found in 5 of the blunt trauma cases but was also seen in the 2 shaken-impact cases with a skull fracture. The most important finding was a lucid interval (LI) in 3 blunt AHT cases. An LI does not seem to occur in shaking injuries because of the immediate and persistent effect of brain damage that such injuries involve. Therefore, LI makes it important to conduct a detailed investigation of the clinical course in time in suspected AHT cases.

From the Departments of *Forensic Pathology, †Radiology, and ‡Intensive Care Medicine, University Hospital Antwerp, Edegem, Belgium.

Manuscript received February 27, 2012; accepted December 5, 2012.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Reprints: Emile Beuls, MD, Department of Forensic Pathology, University Hospital Antwerp, Wilrijkstraat 10, B2650 Edegem, Belgium. E-mail:

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.