Time to deterioration of the elderly, anticoagulated, minor head injury patient who presents without evidence of neurologic abnormality

J Trauma. 2003 Mar;54(3):492-6. doi: 10.1097/01.TA.0000051601.60556.FC.


Background: Generally accepted guidelines regarding the care of the elderly, anticoagulated minor head injury patient do not exist within the trauma literature.

Methods: Charts were reviewed on all anticoagulated, minor head injury patients older than 65 years between January 1993 and May 2000. Postinjury course was examined for neurologic changes, times, coagulation/radiographic studies, reversal, operative intervention, and outcome.

Results: Thirty-two patients were identified. Twenty-four patients were discharged from the Emergency Department. Three of the remaining eight patients had initial Glasgow Coma Scale scores of 15, 15, and 14 but became comatose over a mean course of 3.83 hours. A fourth patient presented comatose 6 hours postinjury, down from "acting normal." Three of these four patients died.

Conclusion: Elderly, anticoagulated patients with minor head trauma risk neurologic deterioration within 6 hours of injury, despite an initially normal neurologic examination. Early cranial computed tomographic scanning and close observation for a minimum of 6 hours are indicated.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use
  • Craniocerebral Trauma* / complications
  • Craniocerebral Trauma* / mortality
  • Craniocerebral Trauma* / therapy
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment*
  • Geriatrics*
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Records


  • Anticoagulants