Moderate head injury: a guide to initial management

J Neurosurg. 1992 Oct;77(4):562-4. doi: 10.3171/jns.1992.77.4.0562.


The purpose of this study is to determine the initial treatment of patients who appear to have sustained moderate head injuries when first evaluated. The authors reviewed the records of 341 patients whose initial Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) scores ranged from 9 to 12, as well as another 106 patients with GCS scores of 13. All patients underwent cranial computerized tomography (CT) at the time of admission. In 40.3% of these patients the CT scans were abnormal (30.6% had intracranial lesions), and 8.1% required neurosurgical intervention (craniotomies for hematoma in 12, elevation of depressed fractures in five, and insertion of intracranial pressure monitors in 19). Four patients died of their intracranial injuries. A similar incidence of lesions found on CT and at surgery suggests that an initial GCS score of 13 be classified with the moderate head injury group. Skull fractures were found to be poor indicators of intracranial abnormalities. These results suggest that all patients with head injury thought to be moderate on initial examination be admitted to the hospital and undergo urgent CT scanning. Patients with intracranial lesions require immediate neurosurgical consultation, surgery as needed, and admission to a critical-care unit. Scans should be repeated in patients whose recovery is less rapid than expected and in all patients with evidence of clinical deterioration; this was necessary in almost half of the patients in this group, and 32% were found to have progression of radiological abnormalities on serial CT scans.

MeSH terms

  • Craniocerebral Trauma / diagnosis*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / mortality
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / physiopathology
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / therapy*
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Pressure / physiology
  • Monitoring, Physiologic
  • Neurologic Examination
  • Survival Rate
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed