Histologic Evidence of Repetitive Blunt Force Abdominal Trauma in Four Pediatric Fatalities

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Abstract:

Abstract: 

In cases of acute fatal child abuse, certain injuries, including cutaneous blunt force trauma, skull fractures, subdural hematomas, intra-abdominal hemorrhage, and retinal hemorrhages are common and well described in the pediatric and forensic literature. These gross findings at autopsy, when taken into consideration with scene investigation and interviews with caregivers, may indicate both a clear manner and cause of death. In such cases, the discovery of additional pathologic changes attributable to older abusive injuries helps support a conclusion of death due to inflicted trauma. We discuss four cases of fatal child abuse in which acute blunt force abdominal trauma was the cause of death. In each of these cases, careful examination with proper sectioning and microscopy of select abdominal tissues revealed that the acute tissue trauma was superimposed on a background of older, healing injury. This older trauma was characterized by classic histologic elements of tissue repair, including fibroblast proliferation, early scar formation, increased vascularity, and hemosiderin-laden macrophages. Iron and trichrome stains were used to confirm the presence of hemosiderin and fibrosis in all four cases, but the recognition of fibroblast proliferation and a reactive vascular pattern was best seen on routine hematoxylin and eosin stains. The gross and microscopic autopsy findings, along with available investigative information, established the diagnosis of chronic physical abuse.

Keywords: blunt force trauma; chronic child abuse; forensic science; homicide; repetitive trauma

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1556-4029.2008.00883.x

Affiliations: 1: Department of Pathology, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR 72205. 2: Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, Little Rock, AR 72215.

Publication date: November 1, 2008

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