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Abusive Head Trauma in Infants Doubled During Recession: Study
Date:4/13/2011

By Madonna Behen
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, April 13 (HealthDay News) -- Recession-related stress may have triggered an alarming increase in non-accidental head injuries among infants, new research suggests.

The number of babies hospitalized for non-accidental head trauma -- a form of child abuse previously known as shaken baby syndrome -- doubled during the recent recession, according to the study by researchers at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland.

"The reasons for why this is happening are beyond the scope of our study, but it may be that more parents are stressed to the breaking point because of economic problems like unemployment and foreclosures," said lead author Mary I. Huang, a fourth-year medical student at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

"In many cases, when people are forced to leave their homes, they may be moving in with relatives who might not have as much of a vested interest in taking care of infants," added Huang, who is scheduled to present the paper Wednesday at the American Association of Neurological Surgeons' meeting in Denver. Research presented at meetings is considered preliminary until it is published in a peer-reviewed journal.

The new findings echo a 2010 study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh. That paper evaluated cases of non-accidental head injury among infants and young children from 2004 through 2009 in four urban children's hospitals. The researchers found almost twice as many cases of abusive head trauma per month in the recession period -- starting in December 2007 -- compared with the period prior to the recession.

The idea for the study came to Huang during her third-year rotation on the pediatric neurosurgery service. "Some of the doctors mentioned that we'd been seeing a lot of non-accidental head trauma, and they wondered if it could have anything to do with the recession," Huang said
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