Abusive Head Trauma in Infants and the Tadpole Sign

Chelsy Foulk, SN

In order to diagnose abusive head trauma in infants, one of the ways to investigate is that of computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. These images are taken in order to discover indicators such as subdural hematomas (SDHs), subdural hygromas (SDHys), retinal hemorrhages and encephalopathy.

A study was completed between the years 2002 and 2013 on 628 infants from the ages of 0-2 years old. Imaging described above was used to identify SDHs and/or SDHys. From these images, incidences of bridging vein thrombosis (BVT) was discovered. What researchers found was that the most common BVT shape found in infants with abusive head trauma was tadpole-like. The oval-shaped “body” represented thrombotic material in the subarachnoid rather than the subdural space, and the bent “tail” was indicative of a torn BV that had expanded due to clotted blood.

Findings of the Tadpole Sign suggests searching for other signs of abusive head trauma as it can be indicative of further injury. The Tadpole Sign is easily identified and the most characteristic shape of BVT in infants.


Hahnemann, M.L., Kinner, S., Schweiger, B. et al. Eur Radiol (2015) 25: 299. https://doi-org.erl.lib.byu.edu/10.1007/s00330-014-3443-z



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