Child abuse causes thousands of hospitalizations, deaths

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(CBS) Child abuse results in an alarming number of hospitalizations and deaths, a new study shows.

The study - published in the March 2012 issue of Pediatrics - found in one year alone, over 4,500 children were hospitalized due to serious abuse, and 300 of those children died. Infants were at highest risk for hospitalization - 58.2 per 100,000 children hospitalized were in their first year of life.

Researchers from the Yale School of Medicine used the 2006 Kids' Inpatient Database from the Department of Health and Human Services to estimate the rate of hospitalizations due to serious physical abuse in children under 18 years of age.

What constitutes child abuse? Doing something - or failing to do something - that results in harm to a child or puts a child at risk for harm. Child abuse can be physical, sexual, or emotional. The study found injuries from physical abuse ranging from bruises to head trauma.

"These numbers are higher than the rate of sudden infant death syndrome (about 50, per 100,000 births), which is alarming," Dr. John Leventhal, study author and medical director of the Child Abuse and Child Abuse Prevention Programs at Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital, said in a written statement. He also noted that children covered by Medicaid had rates of serious abuse about six times higher than those not on Medicaid. "This speaks to the importance of poverty as a risk factor for serious abuse."

Hospital costs for abused children totaled almost $74 million in a year.

Perhaps most frightening is that these numbers may be underreported, as the study did not account for children who were not hospitalized, or who died before getting treatment.

Karel Amaranth, executive director of the J.E.&Z.B. Butler Child Advocacy Center of the Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, N.Y., told CNN, "We see over 1,000 children a year, who come to the clinic, many of them never go to the hospital."

This study is the first to quantify the severity of child abuse. Leventhal said in the statement, "These data should be useful in examining trends over time and in studying the effects of large-scale prevention programs."