Background: Head CT scans are considered the imaging modality of choice to screen patients with head trauma for neurocranial injuries; however, widespread CT imaging is not recommended and much research has been conducted to establish objective clinical predictors of intracranial injury (ICI) in order to optimize the use of neuroimaging in children with minor head trauma.
Objective: To evaluate whether a strict application of the New Orleans Criteria (NOC), Canadian CT Head Rule (CCHR) and National Emergency X-Radiography Utilization Study II (NEXUS II) in pediatric patients with head trauma presenting to a non-trauma center (level II) could reduce the number of cranial CT scans performed without missing clinically significant ICI.
Materials and methods: We conducted an IRB-approved retrospective analysis of pediatric patients with head trauma who received a cranial CT scan between Jan. 1, 2001, and Sept. 1, 2008, and identified which patients would have required a scan based on the criteria of the above listed decision instruments. We then determined the sensitivities, specificities and negative predictive values of these aids.
Results: In our cohort of 2,101 patients, 92 (4.4%) had positive head CT findings. The sensitivities for the NOC, CCHR and NEXUS II were 96.7% (95%CI 93.1-100), 65.2% (95%CI 55.5-74.9) and 78.3% (95%CI 69.9-86.7), respectively, and their negative predictive values were 98.7%, 97.6% and 97.2%, respectively. In contrast, the specificities for these aids were 11.2% (95%CI 9.8-12.6), 64.2% (95%CI 62.1-66.3) and 34.2% (95%CI 32.1-36.3), respectively. Therefore, in our population it would have been possible to scan at least 10.9% fewer patients.
Conclusions: The number of cranial CT scans conducted in our pediatric cohort with head trauma would have been reduced had any of the three clinical decision aids been applied. Therefore, we recommend that further validation and adoption of pediatric head CT decision aids in non-trauma centers be considered to ultimately increase patient safety while reducing medical expense.