Domestic Violence Awareness Month: How Radiologists Can Help

Domestic violence is a serious issue that affects millions of people worldwide. Every year, the month of October is designated as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This is an opportunity to raise awareness about the issue, educate the public, and show support for survivors of domestic violence. One aspect of this issue that is rarely discussed is the role of medical imaging in identifying cases of domestic violence. In this article, we will explore how medical imaging can indicate preexisting clues about abuse and help healthcare professionals identify patients who may be at risk of domestic violence.

Medical imaging, such as X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and ultrasounds, can provide valuable information about a patient’s health. However, they can also reveal signs of abuse that might otherwise go unnoticed. In a recent study presented at RSNA’s annual meeting, researchers found that radiologists can use medical imaging to identify patterns of recurrent injury that are indicative of abuse. By analyzing X-rays of patients with broken bones and other injuries, radiologists can identify old fractures that have healed and new fractures that suggest ongoing abuse.

The study’s lead investigator, Bharti Khurana, MD, emergency radiology fellowship program director at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, was inspired to conduct the research while working with a young woman who came to the hospital’s emergency department with an acute nose fracture overlying an old fracture. Dr. Khurana contacted emergency staff physicians and colleagues to approach the case from a clinical and social angle. Together, they were able to identify patterns of recurrent injury that suggested the woman was a victim of domestic violence.

While medical imaging can be a valuable tool in identifying cases of domestic violence, it is not a foolproof method. Victims of abuse often do not seek medical treatment for their injuries, and those who do may be hesitant to disclose the true cause of their injuries. Healthcare professionals must be trained to recognize the signs of abuse and to approach patients with sensitivity and understanding. They should also be aware of local laws and protocols for reporting domestic violence.

In addition to identifying cases of abuse, medical imaging can also help healthcare professionals assess the severity and extent of injuries. This information can be used to provide appropriate treatment, such as surgery, physical therapy, and counseling. It can also be used to document injuries for legal purposes, such as restraining orders or criminal prosecutions.

Domestic violence is a complex issue that requires a multi-dimensional approach. While medical imaging is just one tool in the toolbox, it can play an important role in identifying cases of abuse and helping victims get the support they need. By raising awareness of this issue and providing education and training to healthcare professionals, we can improve the safety and well-being of patients who are at risk of domestic violence. Let us use this Domestic Violence Awareness Month to amplify our voices and take steps towards a world free from abuse.