Catching the red eye: A retrospective review of factors associated with retinal hemorrhage in child physical abuse

Published:September 01, 2020DOI:



      Accurate identification of child physical abuse is crucial during the evaluation of injured children. Retinal hemorrhages (RH) are used for diagnosis, but clear criteria for screening with direct fundoscopic exam are lacking. We sought to identify key factors associated with RH to guide evaluations.


      Electronic medical records for patients <1 year of age presenting to a Level I Pediatric Trauma Center with unwitnessed head injury from January 2015 to December 2018 were retrospectively reviewed. Multivariable logistic regression was used to identify factors associated with RH.


      Two hundred and seventy-six patients were included; 63% underwent direct fundoscopic examination, of which 23% were positive and 77% were negative for RH. Unscreened patients tended to be older and have isolated skull fractures. Multivariable regression analysis revealed that abnormal GCS and subdural hemorrhage were positively associated with a diagnosis of retinal hemorrhage, while isolated skull fracture was negatively associated.


      Children under 1 year of age with subdural hemorrhage have a greater risk of associated RH and should undergo routine screening with direct fundoscopic examination. Conversely, those with isolated skull fractures may not require an ophthalmology consultation. Standardized screening protocols may help reduce the risk of missing child physical abuse.

      Level of Evidence

      III (Diagnostic Test).

      Key words

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