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Injury Patterns Differ for Elder Abuse Versus Unintentional Falls

Abuse victims more likely to have bruising and injuries to the maxillofacial, dental, or neck region

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TUESDAY, July 28, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Specific, clinically identifiable differences in injury patterns may exist for those presenting to the emergency department with unintentional injuries versus victims of physical elder abuse, according to a study recently published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Tony Rosen, M.D., from Weill Cornell Medicine/New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, and colleagues sought to identify injury patterns associated with physical elder abuse versus injuries from patients presenting to the emergency department with unintentional falls. The analysis included 78 matched cases of elder abuse with visible injuries and 78 patients with unintentional falls.

The researchers found that physical abuse victims were significantly more likely than unintentional fallers to have bruising (78 versus 54 percent) and injuries on the maxillofacial, dental, and neck area (67 versus 28 percent). Fractures (8 versus 22 percent) or lower-extremity injuries (9 versus 41 percent) were less likely among abuse victims, but abuse victims were more likely to have maxillofacial, dental, or neck injuries combined with no upper- or lower-extremity injuries (50 versus 8 percent). Physical elder abuse victims were more likely to have injuries to the left cheek or zygoma (22 versus 3 percent) or on the neck (15 versus 0 percent) or ear (6 versus 0 percent).

"These patterns may provide clinicians with a powerful tool to be able to differentiate injuries from falls and physical abuse, clarifying one of the more complicated differential diagnoses in geriatric medicine," the authors write.

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