As many as one in three women who turn up in A&E have a history of suffering domestic violence, a survey suggests.
One in four women has suffered domestic violence
Researchers questioned 198 women who were waiting to be seen at an A&E unit in an inner city hospital.
Almost 35% said they had suffered domestic violence during their life. Some 6% said they had been beaten by their current partner.
Writing in the Emergency Medicine Journal, the researchers described the figures as high.
Figures from the UK charity Refuge suggest one in four women has suffered domestic violence at some point in their life.
This latest study was carried out by researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine over a five-week period in 2001.
Some 1% of the women said they were in A&E because they had been physically assaulted by a sexual partner.
A further 6% were there for different reasons but said they had been attacked during the previous 12 months.
Of those who had experienced domestic violence, one in 10 said it had been life-threatening.
The researchers said doctors and other A&E staff needed to be aware that many of their patients may have a history of domestic violence.
"A&E professionals need to be aware of the high prevalence of domestic violence and need to establish protocols that initiate appropriate detection and recording of domestic violence, in order to set about timely referral of patients to prevent further healthcare problems," they said.
"Studies also suggest that women attending A&E who had been exposed to abusive relationships were more likely to have more hospital admissions for traumatic injuries, medical, gynaecological and mental health problems."
Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, welcomed the study.
"Reports like this help to bring domestic violence from out of the shadows, but sadly the findings only serve to reinforce what Refuge already knows.
"Domestic violence is a serious life and death matter - two women a week in England and Wales die at the hands of a current or former partner.
"The only way we're going to see change is when the government puts a fully funded national domestic violence strategy in place.
"Domestic violence is a crime and we must work together to help bring an end to the thousands of women and children who live in daily fear and terror."