Factors associated with the use of cervical spine computed tomography imaging in pediatric trauma patients

Acad Emerg Med. 2011 Sep;18(9):905-11. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2011.01154.x. Epub 2011 Aug 19.


Objectives: The objectives were to identify patient and hospital characteristics associated with the use of computed tomography (CT) imaging of the cervical spine (c-spine) in the evaluation of injured children and, in particular, to examine the influence of hospital setting.

Methods: This was a retrospective cohort of children younger than 19 years of age from the Massachusetts Hospital Emergency Department (ED) database who were discharged from the ED with an injury diagnosis from 2005 through 2009. Multivariable logistic regression was used to analyze characteristics associated with CT imaging of the c-spine.

Results: Of the 929,626 pediatric patients diagnosed with an injury in Massachusetts EDs and then discharged home, 1.3% underwent CT imaging of the c-spine. Rates of CT imaging nearly doubled over the 5 years. In the multivariable model, patient age (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 2.3, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.0 to 2.7 for children age 12 to 18 years vs. under 1 year of age) and evaluation outside of a pediatric Level I trauma center (AOR = 2.2, 95% CI = 1.1 to 4.3 for children evaluated at non Level I trauma centers vs. pediatric Level I trauma centers; AOR = 2.1, 95% CI = 0.93 to 4.7 for children evaluated at adult Level I trauma centers vs. pediatric Level I trauma centers) were associated with higher rates of CT imaging of the c-spine.

Conclusions: Cervical spine CT imaging for children discharged from the ED with trauma diagnoses increased from 2005 through 2009. Older age and evaluation outside a Level I pediatric trauma center were associated with a higher c-spine CT rate. Educational interventions focused outside pediatric trauma centers may be an effective approach to decreasing CT imaging of the c-spine of pediatric trauma patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cervical Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cervical Vertebrae / injuries*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Massachusetts
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care
  • Pediatrics
  • Registries
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Spinal Injuries / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / statistics & numerical data*
  • Trauma Centers / statistics & numerical data*