Children suffering physical abuse are at risk for abdominal trauma. When the abdominal trauma is not evident clinically and remains occult, the child's condition can rapidly deteriorate before the diagnosis is made, and delay may occur in the activation of child protective services. The use of markers for abdominal trauma in the evaluation of cases of child physical abuse was examined. Children younger than 12 years presenting to the Emergency Department at the Children's Hospital of Buffalo from August 1989 through April 1990 for the evaluation of suspected physical abuse were prospectively entered in the project. All patients had a complete history and physical examination performed. Those patients who did not show any signs of abdominal injury had the following laboratory tests done: (1) levels of liver transaminases, lactate dehydrogenase, and alkaline phosphatase; (2) amylase level; and (3) uranlysis. Of 49 patients without clinical signs of abdominal trauma, 4 children had elevated transaminase levels. Three of these 4 patients had liver lacerations documented by subsequent abdominal computed tomographic scans. A new finding of transaminase levels as markers of occult liver injury in children suffering physical abuse is reported.

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