Objective. To determine whether children presenting with epidural hemorrhage (EDH) are as likely to have been abused as are children presenting with subdural hemorrhage (SDH).

Design. Retrospective chart review. Setting. Level I regional trauma center and a regional children's hospital.

Patients. All children at both institutions 3 years old or younger with a diagnosis of EDH or SDH identified by a search of the computerized trauma registry and hospital medical records from 1985 through 1991.

Measurement and Results. Complete records were found for 93 of 94 eligible subjects. The diagnosis of accidental or inflicted injury was ascertained from the patient's hospital medical record or the records of Child Protective Services. Of all subjects (n = 93), 52% (48/93) were male and the median age was 15 months. Abuse was diagnosed in 47% (28/59) of children with SDH and 6% (2/34) of those with EDH. Other significant injuries were found in 47% of children with SDH and 18% of children with EDH. There was no statistically significant difference between the two groups with respect to the likelihood of identifying a skull fracture, the need for surgical evacuation of the hemorrhage, or mortality.

Conclusions. Our data are consistent with current biomechanical concepts of intracranial injury. EDHs result from brief linear contact forces that commonly occur in unintentional falls. SDHs are caused by global high-energy rotational acceleration/deceleration forces that are commonly generated in episodes of abuse. Compared with SDH, EDH rarely results from abuse.

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