Background: Current standard of care for patients with traumatic intracranial hemorrhage (TIH) includes neurosurgical consultation and/or transfer to a trauma center with neurosurgical backup. We hypothesize that a set of low-risk criteria can be applied to such patients to identify those who may not require neurosurgical evaluation.
Methods: This is a cross-sectional study of consecutive emergency department patients in 2009 and 2010 with TIH on computerized tomographic scan owing to blunt head trauma. Patients presented to an urban academic Level I trauma center (volume, 92,000) were older than 15 years and had a Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score of 13 or greater. Charts were abstracted using a standardized data form by two emergency physicians. Our principal outcome was deterioration represented by a composite of neurosurgical intervention, clinical deterioration, or worsening computerized tomographic scan result.
Results: During the study period, 404 patients were seen with TIH and met our inclusion criteria, and 48 of those patients (11.8%) deteriorated. Patients with isolated subarachnoid hemorrhage, were less likely to deteriorate (odds ratio [OR], 0.08; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.011-0.58). Characteristics associated with deterioration were subdural hematomas (OR, 2.63; 95% CI, 1.198-5.81) or presenting GCS of less than 15 (OR, 2.12; 95% CI, 1.01-4.43).The use of anticoagulant medications or antiplatelet agents were not associated with deterioration for warfarin, aspirin, or clopidogrel; however bleeding diatheses were corrected with vitamin K, fresh frozen plasma, and platelets as necessary.
Conclusion: Patients with isolated traumatic subarachnoid hemorrhage are at low risk for deterioration. These individuals may not need neurosurgical consultation or transfer to a trauma center where neurosurgical backup is available. Those patients with subdural hematoma or a GCS of less than 15 have a higher risk of deterioration and require neurosurgical evaluation.
Level of evidence: Therapeutic/care management, level IV.