Return to jeopardy: The fate of pediatric burn patients who are victims of abuse and neglect

C. Scott Hultman, Diane Priolo, Bruce A. Cairns, Ernest J. Grant, Hugh D. Peterson, Anthony A. Meyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Child abuse and neglect continue to account for a significant number of pediatric burn injuries. Although the epidemiology of intentional burn injuries has been studied, this report compares victims of abuse with Victims of neglect. Furthermore, we investigate the long-term fate of both victim and perpetrator. A retrospective search of the North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center database identified 21 abuse and 21 neglect patients among 238 pediatric admissions (mean age 5.4 years, mean surface area 14%) from 1992 to 1994. The medical, social, and legal records of each patient were examined by two independent review- ers. History, hospital course, and disposition were compared between groups by chi-square analysis and Student's t test. Compared with victims of neglect, abused children were slightly younger (2.1 vs 2.7 years), had somewhat larger burns (12.3% vs 9.0% total body surface area), had inconsistent mechanisims of injury (90% vs 33%, p < 0.001) that were bathroom-related (81% vs 29%, p < 0.001), were likely to have a history of abuse (57% vs 24%, p < 0.05) or stigrnata of abuse on exam (43% vs 14%, p < 0.05), had longer lengths of stay (23.8 vs 14.1 days, p < 0.05), had similar complication rates, and were placed more often in foster care (65% vs 15%, p < 0.0). Inpatient mortality was 5%. Mean follow-up was 108 days, during which time two children were readmitted for repeat abuse. Regarding the care- givers, 57% were single mothers, 36% had been investigated for abuse or neglect, and 12% had lost custody of other children. Of the perpetrators involved in abuse, 71% were charged with a felony, 43% Were convicted, and 19% were incarcerated longer than 30 days. Victims of burn abuse and neglect differ considerably in terms of history and disposition but not hospital course. Children in both groups, however, remain at risk for abuse and neglect after discharge. We recommend hat more aggressive efforts be made to secure safe environments for these children and that the perpetrator, if clearly identified, be dealt with in a fashion to prevent recurrence of the offense.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)367-376
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Burn Care and Rehabilitation
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Nursing(all)
  • Emergency Medicine
  • Rehabilitation
  • Health Professions(all)


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