How radiologists can help detect domestic abuse victims

Radiologists can help identify victims of domestic violence by looking for injury patterns in past imaging tests, according to a study published in the journal Radiology.

Researchers from Boston-based Brigham and Women's Hospital conducted the study. They retroactively analyzed EHR data and radiology reports for 185 patients referred to an intimate partner violence support program after an emergency department visit between January 2015 and October 2016. Researchers compared these patients to a control group of 555 age- and sex-matched patients who also presented at the ED.

About 96 percent of patients who experienced domestic violence were female, and 37 percent were African-American. Race, psychiatric comorbidities and homelessness were also associated with intimate partner violence.

Researchers found domestic violence victims underwent four times more imaging tests than control subjects. They also experienced more face, skull and arm fractures, along with higher rates of asthma, chronic pain and suicide attempts. 

"There's a wealth of information that's available to us as radiologists," lead author Dr. Elizabeth George, chief resident in Brigham and Women's radiology department, told Reuters. "There might be indications on the prior imaging, and if you see a pattern, that could alert you to something else going on in this case, such as violence."

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