The utility of follow-up skeletal surveys in child abuse

Nancy S. Harper, Sonja Eddleman, Daniel M. Lindberg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Objective: Follow-up skeletal surveys (FUSS) are performed frequently in cases of possible physical abuse based on the evidence from small retrospective cohorts. Our objective was to determine the proportion of FUSS that identified new information in a large, multicenter population of children with concerns of physical abuse. Methods: This was a prospective secondary analysis of an observational study of all children <10 years of age (120 months) who underwent evaluation for possible physical abuse by 20 US child abuse teams. This analysis included all children in whom FUSS was recommended and measured rates of FUSS completion, results of FUSS, and the change in perceived likelihood of abuse before and after FUSS. Results: Among 2890 children enrolled in the Examining Siblings To Recognize Abuse research network, 2049 underwent skeletal survey and 796 (38.8%) had FUSS. A total of 174 (21.5%) subjects had new information identified by FUSS, including 124 (15.6%) with at least 1 new fracture and 55 (6.9%) with reassuring findings compared with the initial skeletal survey. Among cases with new fractures, the estimated likelihood of abuse increased in 41 (33%) cases, and 51 cases (41%) remained at the maximum likelihood of abuse. Conclusions: FUSS identified new information and affected the perceived likelihood of abuse in a substantial fraction of cases in which it was completed. These data support existing guidelines and, in addition, suggest that FUSS should be considered in cases with lower initial levels of concern for abuse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e672-e678
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • Abuse
  • Fractures
  • Screening
  • Skeletal survey


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