Pediatric Abusive Head Trauma (AHT): Reviewing the Evidence-Advancing the Science

May 22-23, 2013


Pediatric Trauma and Critical Illness Branch (PTCIB), Division of Extramural Research (DER), NICHD


To be determined


Child abuse is a complex phenomenon with many factors that place the child at risk. In fiscal year 2008, U.S. state and local child protective services (CPS) received more than 3 million reports of children being maltreated. An estimated 772,000 children were classified by CPS authorities as being maltreated and 1,740 children aged 0 to 17 died from abuse and neglect in 2008. More than 740,000 children and youth are treated in hospital emergency departments as a result of maltreatment related injuries each year.

AHT is a serious injury resulting from violent shaking or blunt impact on infants or young children leading to injuries to the head or brain. AHT is one of the leading causes of child maltreatment-related fatalities. It is estimated that between 50% and 80% of head trauma-related deaths in infants and children younger than 2 years of age in the United States result from this kind of abuse. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study, most victims of AHT survive, however the majority suffer from significant physical disabilities and neurological impairment. Common adverse outcomes include numerous cognitive and neurological sequelae including motor and visual deficits, epilepsy and speech, language and behavioral problems.

Financial costs of maltreatment for victims and society are substantial. Another recent CDC study found the total lifetime estimated financial costs associated with just 1 year of confirmed U.S. cases of child maltreatment is approximately $124 billion.

The developmental sequelae of children who suffer maltreatment related injuries is understudied, and there is a need to bring together researchers from different disciplines who study and provide a continuum of services to these children. This conference aims to:

  • Build on outcomes from a 2002 NICHD-sponsored conference on Inflicted Childhood Neurotrauma.
  • Review advances in the science from multidisciplinary perspectives.
  • Address definitional issues as well as implications for treatment, intervention, and long-term outcomes for children.

Proceedings from this workshop as well as a systematic research agenda will be published in the future.


Dr. Valerie Maholmes, PTCIB, DER, NICHD
Phone: 301-496-1514

Please note: Views expressed during NICHD-sponsored events do not necessarily reflect the opinions or the official positions of NICHD, NIH, or HHS.
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