A review on clotting disorders and retinal hemorrhages: Can they mimic abuse?

Document Type


Publication Date



DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2021.105070


BACKGROUND: The characteristic findings of abusive head trauma (AHT) include retinal hemorrhages (RH). RH have many etiologies in childhood, which should be considered in the differential diagnosis of possible child abuse. The relationship between RH and thrombophilia in children is not well established.

OBJECTIVE: In this literature review, we sought to assess whether retinal findings in pediatric patients with thrombophilia could mimic those of AHT.

METHODS: A literature search was performed to identify all cases of thrombophilia in children less than 18 years old with ocular manifestations. Disorders of thrombophilia including protein C and S deficiency, factor V Leiden (FVL), prothrombin variant, MTHFR mutation, hyperhomocysteinemia, elevated factor VIII, and elevated lipoprotein (a) were considered. All cases of pediatric thrombophilia with retinal examination or intraocular bleeding were included. If provided, descriptions of the RH were reviewed.

RESULTS: Our initial search yielded 514 results. Forty-three articles met our inclusion criteria. We identified 3 children with RH within the AHT usual age range (old), ages 5 weeks and 7 weeks old, in the setting of thrombophilia. One child had ocular findings that could potentially mimic abuse. No other indicators of abuse were present in this case.

CONCLUSIONS: Based on previous reports, thrombophilia alone has not been shown to clearly mimic abusive head trauma. In reported cases of thrombophilia with RH, the clinical picture and ophthalmic findings are usually distinct from abuse.

Journal Title

Child abuse & neglect



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Abusive head trauma; Child abuse; Retinal hemorrhage; Shaken baby syndrome; Thrombophilia

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