Background: Frequency of emergency department (ED) attendance has long been thought to be a risk factor for child abuse. The aim of this study was to test this assumption by comparing the ED attendances of at-risk children (before being placed on a child protection register) with the attendances of an age-matched control group (before an index attendance)
Method: A group of 220 children (aged 0–12 years inclusive) were identified from the two child protection registers in the Shropshire area in 2006. The ED attendances of these children in the 2 years before registration were identified using the computer records of the two local EDs. A control group of 150 children for each year of age (0–12 years inclusive) was then identified from ED attendances between October and December 2006. The attendances of these children in the 2 years before this index attendance were obtained. The data for these two groups of children were then compared.
Results: The at-risk children did not attend the EDs more frequently than did the children in the control group.
Conclusion: The identification of children who attend EDs frequently may be useful for other reasons but is unlikely to be an effective way to detect child abuse.
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