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Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology
Volume 57, n° 3
pages 371-392 (septembre 2007)
Doi : 10.1016/j.jaad.2007.06.001
Continuing Medical Education

Cutaneous signs of child abuse

Amy Swerdlin, MD a, Carol Berkowitz, MD c, d, Noah Craft, MD, PhD, DTM&H a, b, d,
a From the Divisions of Dermatology 
b Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine 
c Department of Pediatrics, Harbor–University of California Los Angeles Medical Center, University of California Los Angeles School of Medicine 
d Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, Torrance 

Reprint request: Noah Craft, MD, PhD, DTM&H, Division of Dermatology, Harbor–UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, 1124 W Carson St, Bldg E6-145, Torrance, CA 90502.

Los Angeles and Torrance, California


Maltreatment of children is a major public health crisis, and it is estimated that each year more than 3 million children are victims of abuse. Safeguarding the welfare of children is a priority, and it is the moral and ethical responsibility of healthcare professionals to detect cases of abuse and intervene appropriately to prevent further harm. Clinicians are often challenged to differentiate signs of child abuse from skin conditions that mimic maltreatment. Because cutaneous injury represents the most recognizable and common form of abuse, dermatologists are often called upon to help distinguish signs of intentional injury from skin conditions that mimic maltreatment. However, few resources specific to dermatologic signs of abuse exist to aid in diagnosis. A review of the literature will provide an educational resource to assist dermatologists and other clinicians in differentiating cutaneous signs of child abuse, including physical and sexual abuse, from mimickers of inflicted injury.

Learning objective

After completing this learning activity, participants should be able to distinguish signs of intentional injury from skin conditions that mimic maltreatment and understand the clinician’s role in the diagnosis and reporting of cases of suspected child abuse.

The full text of this article is available in PDF format.

Abbreviations used : AAP, CAPTA, CPS, EM, HPV, HSP, HSV, ITP, STI

 Funding sources: None.
Conflicts of interest: None declared.

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