Medical imaging has done much to improve human life by diagnosing diseases and saving lives, and a new study conducted at Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School has found a new way to use MRI to protect children from abuse.

Researchers used whole-body MRI as a way to detect soft-tissue abnormalities linked to suspected child abuse. Because MRI doesn’t use ionizing radiation, it is ideal for pediatric imaging of the whole body.

Traditionally, a diagnosis of abuse relies heavily on skeletal injuries. However, bruises are the most common sign of physical abuse, but they are not typically used in making global scans of children.

The study included 21 infants who underwent whole-body MRI for the evaluation of suspected child abuse. The scans identified 167 fractures or areas of skeletal signal abnormality. It also gave investigators other clues to the fact the infants were being abused, according to lead study author Jeannette M. Perez-Rossello, M.D. in an AJR press release. 

“Although our study results revealed that whole-body MRI is insensitive in the detection of classic metaphyseal lesions and rib fractures, we found it did identify soft-tissue injuries such as muscle edema and joint effusions that, in some cases, led to identifying additional fractures,” Perez-Rossello said. 

The study appears in the September issue of the American Journal of Roentgenology.


(Source: Press Release and Abstract)