Children with anogenital symptoms and signs referred for sexual abuse evaluations

Nancy D. Kellogg, Juan M. Parra, Shirley Menard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Objective: To determine whether children referred to a sexual abuse clinic because of anogenital symptoms or signs have examination findings that are suggestive of or probable or definitive for sexual abuse. Design: Case series of 157 patients. Setting: Child and adolescent ambulatory care sexual abuse clinic. Results: A medical records review of 3660 cases was done; 157 cases were identified for study. Most (75%) referrals were from medical clinics. Of 184 complaints, the most common presenting symptom or sign was anogenital bleeding or bruising (29.3%), followed by irritation or redness (21.7%), abnormal anogenital anatomy (20.7%), vaginal discharge (18.4%), lesions (6.5%), and 'other' symptoms or signs (3.3%). We used a standardized classification system and determined that 25 patients (15%) had examination findings in the sexual abuse clinic that were suggestive of or probable or definitive for sexual abuse. Although 85 patients had examination findings that corroborated the presenting symptom(s), 70 had nonspecific examination findings or a diagnosis other than sexual abuse. Seventy-two patients had normal examination findings. Only patients with the presenting symptom of lesions had an increased likelihood of a sexual abuse diagnosis. Common examination findings included anogenital erythema, enhanced vascularity of the hymen or vestibule in prepubertal girls, labial adhesions, and culture- negative vaginitis. Conclusions: Few children are referred for sexual abuse evaluations based on physical signs or symptoms alone. Children with anogenital symptoms but without a disclosure or suspicion of sexual abuse are unlikely to have examination findings suggestive of abuse. The evaluation of children with anogenital symptoms and signs should include a consideration of alternative conditions and causes not directly related to sexual abuse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)634-641
Number of pages8
JournalArchives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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