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Child Abuse and Neglect - Exams and Tests

Physical exam

An abused or neglected child who is taken to a doctor will first have a general physical exam. The doctor will review the child's medical history and ask parents or caregivers questions about the child's condition.

A child who is able to talk will be separated from the caregiver during the interview.

The law requires doctors to consider the possibility of abuse or neglect. Along with seeing signs of physical abuse or neglect, a doctor may become suspicious when:

  • The injury is unusual or is not likely to be an accident, especially for the child's age.
  • The parents or caregivers don't have a good explanation, or the explanation changes.
  • The parents or caregivers say no one saw the injury happen.
  • Medical records show that similar injuries or patterns of neglect have occurred in the past.
  • The parents or caregivers put off taking the child to the doctor without a good reason.
  • The doctor finds signs of sexual abuse.

Other children in the care of the same person may also be examined and have X-rays if police or doctors think it's needed.

Common tests

Tests that are often used to help confirm or rule out abuse or neglect include:

Other tests

Other exams and tests depend on the specific medical problem suspected or observed. For example:

Tracking a child's injuries

Information about a child's injuries is carefully recorded. A detailed account of the injuries goes into the child's permanent health record.

This record usually includes photographs and drawings of the injuries.

Measurements such as weight, height, and head circumference are also taken and recorded to help establish a child's baseline growth pattern. Recording these measurements on growth charts can help identify failure to thrive that sometimes is related to neglect.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: December 07, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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