Undiagnosed, untreated acute lymphoblastic leukemia presenting as suspected child abuse

J. L. McClain, M. A. Clark, G. E. Sandusky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

18 Scopus citations


Natural disease being mistaken for child abuse is rare. A two-year-old child was found unresponsive at home and transported to a local hospital, where she expired in the emergency room. Several cutaneous contusions were observed. Prior to the autopsy it was learned that an anonymous report of 'child abuse' had been previously filed concerning this child. At autopsy there were multiple metasynchronous cutaneous contusions, but no radiologic or gross evidence of other injuries. A pericardial effusion, massive hepatosplenomegaly and generalized lymphadenopathy were apparent. The bone marrow, liver, spleen, lymph nodes, kidneys, pancreas, heart, stomach, and dura mater showed a monotonous lymphocytic infiltrate. Immunocytochemical studies confirmed the diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia of childhood. This case reaffirms the need for an objective examination of all cases by a forensic pathologist.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)735-739
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1990


  • Acute lymphoblastic leukemia
  • Autopsy
  • Child abuse
  • Leukemia
  • Monoclonal antibodies
  • Pathology and biology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Law

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