Benign enlargement of the subarachnoid spaces and subdural collections—when to evaluate for abuse

Maria Raissaki, Catherine Adamsbaum, Maria I. Argyropoulou, Arabinda K. Choudhary, Annmarie Jeanes, Kshitij Mankad, Inès Mannes, Rick R. van Rijn, Amaka C. Offiah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In infants without a history of trauma, subdural haemorrhages should raise the concern for an abusive head injury, particularly when they are associated with bridging vein clotting/rupture or with septations. However, non-haemorrhagic, fluid-appearing subdural collections (also called hygromas) may also be the result of abuse. Subdural collections have also been uncommonly observed in patients with benign enlargement of the subarachnoid spaces (BESS) and a few large-scale studies accurately investigate the incidence and the significance. Currently, there is a wide variation of practices in children with BESS and subdural collections. Due to the social risks associated with abuse evaluation and the perceived risk of radiation exposure, there might be a reluctance to fully evaluate these children in some centres. The diagnosis of physical abuse cannot be substantiated nor safely excluded in infants with BESS and subdural collection(s), without investigation for concomitant traumatic findings. The exact prevalence of occult injuries and abuse in these infants is unknown. In macrocephalic infants with subdural collections and imaging features of BESS, thorough investigations for abuse are warranted and paediatricians should consider performing full skeletal surveys even when fundoscopy, social work consult, and detailed clinical evaluation are unremarkable.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)752-767
Number of pages16
JournalPediatric Radiology
Issue number4
Early online date2023
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


  • Abusive head trauma
  • Benign enlargement of the subarachnoid spaces
  • Infants
  • Macrocephaly
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Subdural collections
  • Ultrasound

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