Non-Accidental Trauma Associated with Withdrawal of Life-Sustaining Medical Treatment in Severe Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury


Areg Grigorian, Christian de Virgilio, Michael Lekawa, Divya Ramakrisnan, Rebecca Barros, Eric Kuncir, and Jeffry Nahmias


Introduction. In highly developed countries, as many as 16 percent of children are physically abused each year. Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the most common injury in non-accidental trauma (NAT) and is responsible for 80 percent of fatal NAT cases, with most deaths occurring in children younger than three years old. Cases of abusers who refuse withdrawal of life-sustaining medical treatment (LSMT) to avoid criminal charges have previously been reported. Therefore, we hypothesized that NAT is associated with a lower risk for withdrawal LSMT in pediatric TBI. 
Methods. The pediatric Trauma Quality Improvement Program database was analyzed (2014 to 2016) for patients aged 16 and younger with TBI and Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) of 8 and lower on admission. Patients with a head Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS) of 2 or less or who died within 48 hours were excluded. A multivariable logistic regression model was used for analysis.
Of 2,209 TBI patients, 92 (4.2 percent) had withdrawal of LSMT. Compared to those without withdrawal of LMST, those with LMST had statistically similar median age (three years of age versus seven years, p = 0.07) and a higher rate of NAT (33.7 percent versus 13.5 percent, p < 0.001). The most common specified perpetrator was a father/stepfather/male partner (70 percent). After adjusting for covariates, factors associated with higher risk for withdrawal of LSMT included age of less than three years (OR 2.38, CI 1.34-4.23, p < 0.05) and NAT (OR 1.86, CI 1.02-3.41, p < 0.05).
Conclusion. NAT is associated with increased risk for withdrawal of LSMT in pediatric TBI. Age of less than three years is similarly associated with a higher risk for withdrawal of LSMT. Future research in this population is needed to determine what other factors predict withdrawal of LSMT and what resources, such as social workers and/or ethics consults, are utilized.



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