"What happens is we get a child in a medical setting and are left with trying to find out what happened when the injury occurred," Nancy Kellogg, division head of child abuse pediatrics in the University of Texas School of Medicine, said.
"Often the best information comes from law enforcement and CPS [Child Protective Services] investigators, but because they aren't physicians and don't know the mechanisms of injury, they often don't know what information is important to us to make a determination of abuse or neglect."
The computer program, available via smartphone to workers in the field, uses animation sequences, text, radiographs, computed tomography scans and magnetic resonance imaging scans to help these workers, she said.
"The animations are very realistic," Kellogg said. "For example, when you see the one of a fall down the stairs, the injuries begin to make sense. The animations give a very powerful depiction of what goes on, not only with accidental injuries but with inflicted abusive injuries."
"This tool does not prevent abuse, but it can prevent repeat abuse," James Anderst of Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., said. "Minor injuries often are inflicted first, then more severe. That's why early identification of abuse is so critical."
The program will also prevent accidental injuries from being considered abusive and can prevent innocent caregivers from losing their children or going to jail, he said.