Classifying Injuries in Young Children as Abusive or Accidental: Reliability and Accuracy of an Expert Panel Approach

Douglas J. Lorenz, Mary Clyde Pierce, Kim Kaczor, Rachel P. Berger, Gina Bertocci, Bruce E. Herman, Sandra Herr, Kent P. Hymel, Carole Jenny, John M. Leventhal, Karen Sheehan, Noel Zuckerbraun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Objective: To assess interrater reliability and accuracy of an expert panel in classifying injuries of patients as abusive or accidental based on comprehensive case information. Study design: Data came from a prospective, observational, multicenter study investigating bruising characteristics of children younger than 4 years. We enrolled 2166 patients with broad ranges of illnesses and injuries presenting to one of 5 pediatric emergency departments in whom bruises were identified during examination. We collected comprehensive data regarding current and past injuries and illnesses, and provided deidentified, standardized case information to a 9-member multidisciplinary panel of experts with extensive experience in pediatric injury. Each panelist classified cases using a 5-level ordinal scale ranging from definite abuse to definite accident. Panelists also assessed whether report to child protective services (CPS) was warranted. We calculated reliability coefficients for likelihood of abuse and decision to report to CPS. Results: The interrater reliability of the panelists was high. The Kendall coefficient (95% CI) for the likelihood of abuse was 0.89 (0.87, 0.91) and the kappa coefficient for the decision to report to CPS was 0.91 (0.87, 0.94). Reliability of pairs and subgroups of panelists were similarly high. A panel composite classification was nearly perfectly accurate in a subset of cases having definitive, corroborated injury status. Conclusions: A panel of experts with different backgrounds but common expertise in pediatric injury is a reliable and accurate criterion standard for classifying pediatric injuries as abusive or accidental in a sample of children presenting to a pediatric emergency department.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)144-150.e4
JournalJournal of Pediatrics
StatePublished - Jul 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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