The aim of this study was to compare the demographic characteristics, clinical presentations, medical evaluation, and injuries identified in a cohort of children with and without subconjunctival hemorrhage who were evaluated by a child abuse specialist.
This was a case-control study that used data from the ExSTRA (Examining Siblings to Recognize Abuse) research network. Subjects with a subconjunctival hemorrhage(s) were designated as cases. Four controls matched for age and participating center were included for each case. Descriptive statistics were used to compare cases and controls.
Fifty of the 2890 subjects in the parent study had a subconjunctival hemorrhage(s) and were designated as cases. The cases had a median (interquartile range) age of 5.0 months (2.0–23.6 months). Two hundred controls were matched to the cases. There was no difference in the demographics, clinical characteristics, medical evaluation, or rate of occult injuries identified in cases and controls. Almost one-quarter of children with subconjunctival hemorrhages had no other external sign of trauma but had the same rate of occult injuries as children with bruises.
These data suggest that subconjunctival hemorrhages are relatively rare among children undergoing evaluation by a child abuse specialist, but that they are often an indicator of occult injury. Even in the absence of other external signs of trauma, the presence of subconjunctival hemorrhages should prompt an age-appropriate evaluation for physical abuse.