Epidemiology of traumatic head injury from a major paediatric trauma centre in New South Wales, Australia

ANZ J Surg. 2014 Jun;84(6):424-8. doi: 10.1111/ans.12445. Epub 2014 Jan 9.


Background: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is common and is a leading cause of presentations to emergency departments. Understanding the epidemiology of TBI can aid in improving overall management and identifying opportunities for prevention. Currently, there is a paucity of data on paediatric TBI in NSW. The purpose of this study was to determine the demographics, causes, treatment and outcome of TBI at The Children's Hospital at Westmead (CHW), a large trauma referral paediatric hospital.

Methods: A retrospective chart review was conducted of patients admitted to CHW emergency from 2006 to 2011 with a TBI. Patients who presented to the emergency department and had a history of TBI with either symptoms of concussion and/or positive computed tomography (CT) findings of head injury were selected. Information regarding demographics, injury pattern, CT findings, treatment and outcome were retrieved.

Results: Over the 6-year period, there were 1489 presentations at the CHW. Of these, 65% were male and 35% were female. The mean age was 7 years. A total of 93% were classified as mild, 1.5% as moderate and 5.5% as severe. Sports and recreational injuries accounted for 26% of all TBI presentations, while motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) accounted for 77% of all TBI deaths. Sixty-two per cent of children underwent a CT brain, and of those, 40% were normal.

Conclusion: The majority of TBI are mild in nature, with younger children and males at greatest risk. There was a low rate of operative intervention and a high rate of good outcomes. Many injuries may be preventable with the adaptation of better public health education programmes, particularly in very young children and those related to MVAs.

Keywords: epidemiology; paediatric; traumatic head injury.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Distribution
  • Brain Injuries / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Brain Injuries / therapy
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Female
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Hospitals, Pediatric
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • New South Wales / epidemiology
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Distribution
  • Survival Rate
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods
  • Trauma Centers*