Nonbattering presentations to the ED of women in physically abusive relationships

Robert L. Muelleman, Patricia A. Lenaghan, Ruth A. Pakieser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


To determine which diagnoses in the emergency department (ED), apart from battering injuries, were more common among women who were living in physically abusive relationships than among women who were not, a study was conducted in 10 hospital-based EDs in two cities serving inner city, urban, and suburban populations. A total of 9,057 women between the ages of 19 and 65 years presenting to the EDs were eligible for the study. Medical records were reviewed, and a written questionnaire was used. The questionnaire was completed by 4,501 (73% of those asked, 59% of those eligible, and 50% of those presenting). Two hundred sixty-six (5.9%) were currently in a physically abusive relationship but not in the ED for battering injuries, and 3,969 (88.2%) were not currently in a physically abusive relationship. An additional 266 (5.9%) were positive, probable, or suggestive for battering injuries and excluded from diagnosis comparisons. Women in physically abusive relationships were more likely to be diagnosed with urinary tract infections, neck pain, vaginitis, foot wound, suicide attempt, and finger fracture. However, these represented only 19.8% of diagnoses in this group. The use of this knowledge alone to predict the presence of intimate violence in individual patients in the ED will not identify the majority of women at risk. These results suggest the use of routine inquiry for abuse in all women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128-131
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1998


  • Domestic violence
  • Emergency services
  • Partner abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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