Abusive head trauma (AHT) in children is notoriously one of the most challenging diagnoses for the forensic pathologist. The pathological “triad”, a combination of intracranial subdural haematoma, cerebral oedema with hypoxic-ischaemic changes and retinal haemorrhages, is frequently argued to be insufficient to support a corroborated verdict of abuse. Data from all available English-language scientific literature involving radiological and neuropathological spinal cord examination is reviewed here in order to assess the contribution of spinal cord changes in differentiating abusive from accidental head trauma. In agreement with the statistically proven association between spinal subdural haemorrhage (SDH) and abuse (Choudhary et al. in Radiology 262:216–223, 2012), spinal blood collection proved to be the most indicative finding related to abusive aetiology. The incidence of spinal blood collection is as much as 44–48% when all the spinal cord levels are analysed as opposed to just 0–18% when the assessment is performed at cervical level only, in agreement with the evidence of the most frequent spinal SDH location at thoracolumbar rather than cervical level. In this review, the source of spinal cord blood collection and how the age of the child relates to the position of spinal cord lesions is also discussed. We concluded that the ante mortem MRI examination and post mortem examination of whole-length spinal cord is of fundamental interest for the assessment of abuse in the forensic setting.

Spinal cord injury as an indicator of abuse in forensic assessment of abusive head trauma (AHT)

Michela Colombari;Stefania Turrina;Franco Tagliaro;Domenico De Leo;
2021

Abstract

Abusive head trauma (AHT) in children is notoriously one of the most challenging diagnoses for the forensic pathologist. The pathological “triad”, a combination of intracranial subdural haematoma, cerebral oedema with hypoxic-ischaemic changes and retinal haemorrhages, is frequently argued to be insufficient to support a corroborated verdict of abuse. Data from all available English-language scientific literature involving radiological and neuropathological spinal cord examination is reviewed here in order to assess the contribution of spinal cord changes in differentiating abusive from accidental head trauma. In agreement with the statistically proven association between spinal subdural haemorrhage (SDH) and abuse (Choudhary et al. in Radiology 262:216–223, 2012), spinal blood collection proved to be the most indicative finding related to abusive aetiology. The incidence of spinal blood collection is as much as 44–48% when all the spinal cord levels are analysed as opposed to just 0–18% when the assessment is performed at cervical level only, in agreement with the evidence of the most frequent spinal SDH location at thoracolumbar rather than cervical level. In this review, the source of spinal cord blood collection and how the age of the child relates to the position of spinal cord lesions is also discussed. We concluded that the ante mortem MRI examination and post mortem examination of whole-length spinal cord is of fundamental interest for the assessment of abuse in the forensic setting.
Abusive head trauma
spinal cord injury
forensic invetigation
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11562/1044885
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