Aim: To assess the impact of the introduction of the Birmingham Children's Hospital (BCH) head injury computed tomography (CT) guidelines, when compared with the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines, on the number of children with head injuries referred from the Emergency Department (ED) undergoing a CT examination of the head.
Material and methods: All children attending BCH ED over a 6-month period with any severity of head injury were included in the study. ED case notes were reviewed and data were collected on a specifically designed proforma. Indications for a CT examination according to both NICE and BCH head injury guidelines and whether or not CT examinations were performed were recorded.
Results: A total of 1428 children attended the BCH ED following a head injury in the 6-month period. The median age was 4 years (range 6 days to 15 years) and 65% were boys. Four percent of children were referred for a CT using BCH guidelines and were appropriately examined. If the NICE guidelines had been strictly adhered to a further 8% of children would have undergone a CT examination of the head. All of these children were discharged without complication. The remaining 88% had no indication for CT examination by either BCH or NICE and appropriately did not undergo CT.
Conclusions: Adherence to the NICE head injury guidelines would have resulted in a three-fold increase in the total number of CT examinations of the head. The BCH head injury guidelines are both safe and appropriate in the setting of a large children's hospital experienced in the management of children with head injuries.