Head Trauma in Infants and Children and Developmental Disabilities

Chelsy Foulk, SN

Abusive head trauma not only impacts infants and children negatively from a physical standpoint, but it also negatively effects their growth, emotional, social, and cognitive development.

In the article Abusive Head Trauma in Infants and Young children: A Unique Contributor to Developmental Disabilities, several studies are outlined which relay the broad impact that abusive head trauma can have. One such study included 404 children diagnosed with Shaken Baby Syndrome in France. They found that 96% of children who had seizure recurrence after the acute injury also had behavior problems. Recurrent seizures is indicative of a high mortality rate. The most severely injured infants and children suffer significant motor, cognitive emotional, and behavioral impairments throughout their lives.

An additional study by Bonnier and colleagues studied neuroimaging features of nonaccidental head trauma victims over time. With this information they were able to predict neurodevelopmental outcomes. Twenty three children were involved in the study with injuries ranging from 2.5 to 13 years in the past. The discovery was that 61% had severe disabilities, 35% had moderate disabilities, and 4% were normal. Intraparenchymal brain lesions within the first 3 months were found to be significantly associated with neurodevelopmental impairment. Additionally, whether the head trauma was inflicted or noninflicted was indicative of impairment. Sixty percent of head-injured children demonstrated cognitive impairment, however, inflicted injury was associated with more severe injury and worse outcomes. This result is astounding and efforts need to be made to prevent all forms of child abuse and neglect.

Frasier, L. D. (2008). Abusive Head Trauma in Infants and Young Children: A Unique Contributor to Developmental Disabilities. Pediatric Clinics of North America,55(6), 1269-1285. doi:10.1016/j.pcl.2008.08.003

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