Cautious observation or blanket scanning? An investigation into paediatric attendances to an emergency department after head injury

Injury. 2011 Sep;42(9):896-9. doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2010.06.007. Epub 2010 Jul 5.


In September 2007, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in the UK issued a newly updated guideline (CG56) on the early care of adults and children with head injuries.(8) The guideline gives some new recommendations, in particular with regards to imaging of children with head injury. We undertook a study to investigate the management of children presenting with head injury to our emergency department and to assess their outcomes and the CT scanning rate. We then retrospectively applied the new NICE guidelines, using information documented in the case notes, to establish whether adherence to the guidelines would significantly affect CT scanning rates. 237 paediatric head injury cases were seen over the 2-month period that was studied. The actual CT scanning rate observed was 2.1%, rising to 18.1% after strictly applying NICE criteria. This increased scanning rate raises some important issues with regards to patient safety and service provision.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Algorithms
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / diagnostic imaging
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / epidemiology*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / therapy
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / statistics & numerical data*
  • United Kingdom