To scan or not to scan: overutilization of computed tomography for minor head injury at a pediatric trauma center

Jeremy D. Kauffman, Cristen N. Litz, Sasha A. Thiel, Anh Thy H. Nguyen, Aaron Carey, Paul D. Danielson, Nicole M. Chandler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Degree of compliance with Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network (PECARN) recommendations for radiographic evaluation following minor head injury in children is not well understood. The aim of this study was to assess PECARN compliance at a pediatric trauma center. The secondary aim was to determine whether children with indeterminate history of loss of consciousness (LOC) are at greater risk for clinically important traumatic brain injury (ciTBI) than those with no LOC. Materials and methods: We identified children aged 0-17 y who presented <24 h after minor head injury with Glasgow Coma Scale ≥14 in our institutional trauma registry. Predictor variables for ciTBI (TBI resulting in admission ≥2 nights, intubation ≥24 h, neurosurgery, or death) were reviewed. Simple and multivariate logistic regressions were performed to estimate the independent effects of demographic and clinical characteristics on the outcome of ciTBI. Results: We included 739 children. Incidence of ciTBI was 5.4%. Only 5.6% did not undergo computed tomography (CT). PECARN compliance was 92.6% overall, but only 23.0% in those for whom CT was not indicated. Among those for whom either CT or observation was acceptable, 93.7% underwent CT. LOC history was indeterminate in 8.5%. On multivariate analysis, indeterminate LOC was not a risk factor for ciTBI. Vomiting and presence of occipital/parietal/temporal scalp hematoma were independent risk factors for ciTBI. Conclusions: CT is overutilized in pediatric trauma patients presenting to our institution after minor head injury when compared to PECARN criteria. Indeterminate LOC history was not a risk factor for ciTBI. Education of parents and clinicians regarding the risk to benefit ratio of CT in trauma patients with minor head injury is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)164-170
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • CT
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Pediatrics
  • Risk-benefit
  • TBI
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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