Diagnostic accuracy in child sexual abuse medical evaluation: Role of experience, training, and expert case review

Joyce A. Adams, Suzanne P. Starling, Lori D. Frasier, Vincent J. Palusci, Robert Allan Shapiro, Martin A. Finkel, Ann S. Botash

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Objectives: (1) The purpose of this study was to assess the ability of clinicians who examine children for suspected sexual abuse to recognize and interpret normal and abnormal ano-genital findings in magnified photographs using an online survey format. (2) Determine which factors in education, clinical practice, and case review correlate with correct responses to the survey questions. Methods: Between July and December 2007, medical professionals participated in a web-based survey. Participants answered questions regarding their professional background, education, clinical experience, and participation in case review. After viewing photographs and clinical information from 20 cases, participants answered 41 questions regarding diagnosis and medical knowledge. Answers chosen by an expert panel were used as the correct answers for the survey. Results: The mean number of correct answers among the 141 first-time survey respondents was 31.6 (SD 5.9, range 15-41). Child Abuse Pediatricians (CAP) had mean total scores which were significantly higher than Pediatricians (Ped) (34.8 vs. 30.1, p< 0.05) and Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) (34.8 vs. 29.3, p< 0.05). The mean total scores for Ped, SANE, and Advanced Practice Nurses (APN) who examine fewer than 5 children monthly for possible CSA were all below 30. Total score was directly correlated with the number of examinations performed monthly (p= 0.003). In multivariable regression analysis, higher total score was associated with self-identification as a CAP, reading The Quarterly Update newsletter (p< 0.0001), and with quarterly or more frequent expert case reviews using photo-documentation (p= 0.0008). Conclusions: Child Abuse Pediatricians, examiners who perform many CSA examinations on a regular basis, examiners who regularly review cases with an expert, and examiners who keep up to date with current research have higher total scores in this survey, suggesting greater knowledge and competence in interpreting medical and laboratory findings in children with CSA. Review of cases with an expert in CSA medical evaluation and staying up to date with the CSA literature are encouraged for non-specialist clinicians who examine fewer than 5 children monthly for suspected sexual abuse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)383-392
Number of pages10
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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