Radiologists can identify key signs of domestic violence in imaging exams and their findings could serve as preventative or life-saving tactics for victims of interpartner violence, according to study recently published in Radiology.

Study authors Bharti Khurana, MD and Elizabeth George, MD, two radiologists at the Department of Radiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, looked at medical records from 185 patients who were referred to the hospital’s intimate partner violence program between January 2015 to October 2016. Patient data was compared to a control group of 555 patients who had received care at the emergency department.

Their findings determined that 96 percent of victims of intimate partner violence are female and their average age was around 34 years old. Victims undergo more imaging studies than the typical person, and on average, had quadruple the number of imaging procedures than the control group. Patients with acute fractures, obstetric/gynecologic findings like pregnancy loss and intrauterine growth restriction were between two and four times more likely to be issues associated with domestic violence.

Dr. Khurana and Dr. George hope to use the data to develop a pattern-based system that will detect and classify injuries and determine the probability of a patient being a victim of domestic violence. “In addition, our multidisciplinary team will design conversational guides using medical images for training for social workers and clinicians to approach the patients who are identified as being at high risk for intimate partner violence and are not forthcoming,” wrote Dr. Khurana.