Integration of image transmission into a protocol for head injury management: a preliminary report

Br J Neurosurg. 2002 Feb;16(1):36-42. doi: 10.1080/02688690120114255.


Neurosurgical care is limited in many parts of the world to one or two hospitals serving a large geographic area. The quality of neurosurgical response to emergencies depends on the reliability and completeness of the information received from referral hospitals. The aim of this study is to show how application of guidelines for head injury management in an entire area can be usefully combined with transmission of images from the peripheral to the central hospital. From January 1998 to December 2000, 1665 CT examinations were sent via image transfer to the Neurosurgical Unit; 637 first examinations (47%) and 206 second examinations (70%) were related to acute trauma cases. Out of 637 first examinations, 150 patients were actually transferred to the Neurosurgery Unit (23%), whereas of 206 second examinations, only 10 patients were secondarily transferred (5%). In the absence of the outcomes of patients located outside the Neurosurgical Unit, we studied in detail these 10 patients. They are, in fact, the only way for us to partially measure the impact of our system. Only in a single case could the death be attributed to a delay in transferring the patient. We then studied the factors influencing the decision of patient transfer. Mean GCS was 11 both for transferred and non transferred cases. The mean age of all patients was 52 years (median 48, SD 20.5 years); mean age of non-transferred patients was 54 years and for transferred patients it was 41 years (p < 0.01). The same statistically significant difference concerning age applied to any type of pathology sent via image link. In conclusion our data show that it is feasible to co-ordinate in an entire area the treatment of head injured patients. Available systems for CT images link are reliable and mostly useful. Unnecessary transfers can be avoided and the neurosurgeons can evaluate the images of a number of patients who have always been treated outside our Units. This results in more work for the neurosurgeons on duty, but also in a better quality service for the whole area. The lack of follow-up for patients not admitted to Neurosurgery is the limitation on a quality assessment of the system.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / diagnostic imaging*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / surgery
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurosurgery / organization & administration
  • Patient Transfer / standards*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Teleradiology*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*
  • Triage / standards