Racial and ethnic disparities in diagnostic imaging for child physical abuse.

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DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2024.106648


IMPORTANCE: Racial bias may affect occult injury testing decisions for children with concern for abuse.

OBJECTIVES: To determine the association of race on occult injury testing decisions at children's hospitals.

DESIGN: In this retrospective study, we measured disparities in: (1) the proportion of visits for which indicated diagnostic imaging studies for child abuse were obtained; (2) the proportion of positive tests.

SETTING: The Pediatric Health Information System (PHIS) administrative database encompassing 49 tertiary children's hospitals during 2017-2019.

PARTICIPANTS: We built three cohorts based on guidelines for diagnostic testing for child abuse: infants with traumatic brain injury (TBI; n = 1952), children(n = 20,842), and children(SS; n = 13,081).

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: For each group we measured: (1) the odds of receiving a specific guideline-recommended diagnostic imaging study; (2) among those with the indicated imaging study, the odds of an abuse-related injury diagnosis. We calculated both unadjusted and adjusted odds ratios (AOR) by race and ethnicity, adjusting for sex, age in months, payor, and hospital.

RESULTS: In infants with TBI, the odds of receiving a SS did not differ by racial group. Among those with a SS, the odds of rib fracture were higher for non-Hispanic Black than Hispanic (AOR 2.05 (CI 1.31, 3.2)) and non-Hispanic White (AOR 1.57 (CI 1.11, 2.32)) patients. In children with extremity fractures, the odds of receiving a SS were higher for non-Hispanic Black than Hispanic and non-Hispanic White patients (AOR 1.97 (CI 1.74, 2.23)); (AOR 1.17 (CI 1.05, 1.31)), respectively, and lower for Hispanic than non-Hispanic White patients (AOR 0.59 (CI 0.53, 0.67)). Among those receiving a SS, the rate of rib fractures did not differ by race. In children with skeletal surveys, the odds of receiving neuroimaging did not differ by race. Among those with neuroimaging, the odds of a non-fracture, non-concussion TBI were lower in non-Hispanic Black than Hispanic patients (AOR 0.7 (CI 0.57, 0.86)) and were higher among Hispanic than non-Hispanic White patients (AOR 1.23 (CI 1.02, 1.47)).

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: We did not identify a consistent pattern of race-based disparities in occult injury testing when considering the concurrent yield for abuse-related injuries.

Journal Title

Child abuse & neglect



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MeSH Keywords

Infant; Child; Humans; Child, Preschool; White People; Retrospective Studies; Physical Abuse; Child Abuse; Radiography


Child abuse evaluation; Racial Disparities

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