How radiologists can help domestic violence victims in Boston

BOSTON — On a trip to the hospital, you many never see them, but radiologists are hoping they're in a unique position to help domestic violence patients.

Radiologists often can distinguish between an injury caused by an accident versus a blow.

“As a patient is raising her arm, protecting her face and if she gets hit during that time, you would get fracture of this bone,” Dr. Bharti Khurana told Boston 25 News.

Dr. Khurana and Dr. Elizabeth George at Brigham and Women’s hospital spent the past year and a half going through dozens of patients' medical images in detail. They kept a running tally of the patient's injuries and backgrounds. The patients were referred from the E.R. to domestic violence programs.  The goal is to learn who may be most at-risk.

“There were many who had issues with substance abuse, there were many with psychological issues, and there were many who were in fact homeless,” said Dr. George.

Dr. Khurana says the fact radiologists never meet the patients behind X-rays, is actually an advantage.

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“Physicians may be suffering from unconscious bias when they're talking to the patients and their husbands and boyfriends and partners, but as a radiologist, I have no idea. I'm looking only at their images,” said Dr. Khurana.

Dr. Khurana and a team of radiologists are now going back and looking for specific injury patterns that one day might help catch future victims before it's too late.

The domestic violence shelter Respond in Somerville, calls the work "promising" and told Boston 25 News,“we are always encouraged to hear of different disciplines trying to help assist victims to a life of safety."

The doctors presented their initial findings in November at an annual radiological society meeting.
The hope is it will empower other radiologists to raise concerns and report suspicious cases.

You can find the state's list of domestic violence resources here.

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