The epidemiology of paediatric head injuries: data from a referral centre in Victoria, Australia

J Paediatr Child Health. 2009 Jun;45(6):346-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1754.2009.01499.x. Epub 2009 May 28.


Aim: Currently, there are no population-based or hospital-based studies on the full spectrum of paediatric head injuries (HIs) in Australia. We set out to provide detailed information on the incidence rates, causes and clinical management of all severities of HI in children and adolescents at an Australian tertiary referral centre using emergency department (ED) and admission data as a basis for further investigations and prevention efforts.

Methods: A retrospective chart review of all children aged 0-16 years who attended the Royal Childrens Hospital (RCH), Melbourne, following a HI in 2004 was used. The cases were identified using the International classification of diseases 10th revision codes, and all medical records were reviewed based on a piloted data form. Information was collected on demographics, injury factors and clinical management of HIs in the hospital setting.

Results: Over the 12-month period, there were 1115 children with an HI who attended the RCH ED, or were admitted. Ninety per cent were classified as mild, 8% as moderate and 3% as severe. Males and children under 3 years had the higher attendance rates. Falls, sports and motor vehicle accidents were the main HI causes. The main sport played (30%) when sustaining an HI was Australian rules football. Thirty-two per cent of children were admitted, 67% of these with mild HI. Twenty-one per cent had a radiology imaging study, most (67%) with a normal result.

Conclusions: Many HI causes appear preventable, in particular, falls from heights in infants and sports safety. High rates of admission and radiology imaging of mild HI warrant further investigation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • International Classification of Diseases
  • Male
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Victoria / epidemiology