The brains from 12 babies up to 21/2 years of age, who died after repeated non-accidental injury to the head, were subjected to detailed neuropathological examination. The nine brains from infants under 5 months showed contusional tears--slit like lesions in the white matter surrounded by astrocytes and associated with evidence of old and recent haemorrhage. The three brains from infants over 5 months showed white matter lesions similar to those seen in adults after closed head injury, including damage in the dorsolateral quadrant of the brain stem without axonal hemispheric damage, which may have been a result of whiplash injury after shaking. In addition, all the brains examined showed diffuse gliosis. This paper draws attention to contusional tears and other white matter lesions, which the authors believe are manifestations of mechanical damage produced by trauma. The long term neurological and intellectual defects observed in patients suffering non-accidental injury early in life are increasingly being recognised, although it is difficult to identify the extent to which these are due to social or neuropathological factors. We suggest that the white matter damage we describe has an important role.
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