Objective. Recent evidence suggests that patients with a normal cranial CT scan after head injury can be safely discharged home from the emergency department. However, supporting data from previous studies has relied on incomplete patient follow-up. We utilized a statewide comprehensive hospital abstract reporting system (CHARS) to assess whether children with normal CT scans after head injury subsequently developed intracranial sequelae in the month following their initial injury.
Design. Retrospective case-series study, with comprehensive statewide follow-up for 1 month.
Setting. The emergency department of a Level 1 Trauma Center in Seattle, Washington.
Participants. All children (n = 400) with head injury, Glasgow Coma Score of 13 to 15, and initial normal CT scan seen over a 4.5-year time period. All were matched against CHARS to evaluate admissions within 30 days after emergency department disposition. For readmissions, International Classification of Diseases (9th revision) discharge and procedure information was collected. All children were also matched against the state death files.
Results. Four children were readmitted for neurologic reasons within 1 month following injury. One child on coumadin for heart disease developed a symptomatic subdural hematoma 5 days after head injury, requiring neurosurgical drainage. One child developed a symptomatic hemorrhagic contusion 3 days after injury, requiring observation only. Two children were readmitted 1 day after injury for concussive symptoms; both were discharged home after observation only. There were no deaths among the study population.
Conclusions. Among children with a normal cranial CT scan after mild head injury, delayed intracranial sequelae requiring intervention are extremely uncommon. In otherwise stable patients, a normal cranial CT scan can identify patients to be safely discharged from the emergency department, and would be more cost-effective than 1 to 2 days of hospital observation.
- Received February 18, 1994.
- Accepted June 24, 1994.
- Copyright © 1995 by the American Academy of Pediatrics