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Study: Many orthopedic surgeons not seeing domestic abuse symptoms

Here’s a notable irony relating to domestic abuse: Highly trained orthopedic trauma surgeons who believe that such abuse is a serious problem and that identifying and following through is important seem as a group to be woefully ineffectual in identifying and responding to domestic abuse.

Why would that be? Wouldn’t it seem reasonably likely that a bone doctor with years of high-level experience and singularly trained to see and treat broken bones and other injuries would be acutely on guard for signs of domestic violence?

Flatly, that is not the case, at least according to a recent University of Missouri study published in the journal Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research. In a survey of more than 150 orthopedic trauma surgeons, only 23 percent of respondents stated that they had received any special training or education at all concerning intimate-partner violence.

And that finding issues despite those same respondents saying that recognizing domestic violence symptoms is of obvious importance. Most of the surgeons in the study stated that they would welcome training to help them spot and better respond to abuse.

There certainly seems to be a need for that, given the results of another recent study positing that about four in 10 patients visiting orthopedic trauma centers in North America have been victims of domestic abuse.

That high number seems to be unappreciated by many trauma surgeons. Nearly three of every four respondents in the Missouri survey stated a view that a mere five percent or less of the patients they examine have suffered from domestic abuse.

Source: U.S. News & World Report, "Bone doctors may miss signs of domestic abuse, survey finds," Nov. 15, 2013

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