Developmental outcomes in abusive head trauma

Dina Ahmad, Amanda Small, Ashley Gibson, Natalie Kissoon

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Abusive head trauma (AHT) is associated with high mortality and poorer outcomes compared to accidental head injuries. The short and long-term developmental outcomes for AHT are not well identified. Variability in outcome measures, small sample sizes, difficulty in measuring domain-specific developmental skills, co-existence of comorbidities, genetic and environmental factors and high attrition rates all contribute to the challenges on providing data in this area. The objective of this article is to review the scientific literature on the developmental outcomes of AHT, highlighting factors that affect outcomes, the available assessment tools, and short and long-term developmental outcomes, recommended follow up, societal costs, and future opportunities for research. Authors searched OVID Medline and PubMed for articles published between 2013 and 2023 using the terms “abuse”, “craniocerebral trauma” and “development”. Fifty-five records were included for this review. The data shows that injuries sustained from AHT result in a spectrum of outcomes ranging from normal development to death. There are more than 100 outcome assessment tools limiting the ability to compare studies. More than half of patients are left with disabilities post discharge. Gross motor and cognition/academics are the 2 most common domains studied. Advancement in surgical and neurocritical care management has influenced AHT outcomes. Close long-term follow up is recommended to maximize each child's developmental potential, irrespective of the presence of disability at discharge. We suggest that future research should focus on adopting a consistent diagnostic and assessment approach and explore the social environmental factors that can affect recovery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101142
JournalSeminars in Pediatric Neurology
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Clinical Neurology


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