Computed tomography characteristics in pediatric versus adult traumatic brain injury

J Neurosurg Pediatr. 2014 Mar;13(3):307-14. doi: 10.3171/2013.12.PEDS13223. Epub 2014 Jan 10.


Object: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading cause of injury, hospitalization, and death among pediatric patients. Admission CT scans play an important role in classifying TBI and directing clinical care, but little is known about the differences in CT findings between pediatric and adult patients. The aim of this study was to determine if radiographic differences exist between adult and pediatric TBI.

Methods: The authors retrospectively analyzed TBI registry data from 1206 consecutive patients with nonpenetrating TBI treated at a Level 1 adult and pediatric trauma center over a 30-month period.

Results: The distribution of sex, race, and Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score was not significantly different between the adult and pediatric populations; however, the distribution of CT findings was significantly different. Pediatric patients with TBI were more likely to have skull fractures (OR 3.21, p < 0.01) and epidural hematomas (OR 1.96, p < 0.01). Pediatric TBI was less likely to be associated with contusion, subdural hematoma, subarachnoid hemorrhage, or compression of the basal cisterns (p < 0.05). Rotterdam CT scores were significantly lower in the pediatric population (2.3 vs 2.6, p < 0.001).

Conclusions: There are significant differences in the CT findings in pediatric versus adult TBI, despite statistical similarities with regard to clinical severity of injury as measured by the GCS. These differences may be due to anatomical characteristics, the biomechanics of injury, and/or differences in injury mechanisms between pediatric and adult patients. The unique characteristics of pediatric TBI warrant consideration when formulating a clinical trial design or predicting functional outcome using prognostic models developed from adult TBI data.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Brain Injuries / complications*
  • Brain Injuries / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain Injuries / surgery
  • California
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Hematoma, Epidural, Cranial / diagnostic imaging
  • Hematoma, Epidural, Cranial / etiology
  • Hematoma, Subdural / diagnostic imaging
  • Hematoma, Subdural / etiology
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Hemorrhage, Traumatic / diagnostic imaging*
  • Intracranial Hemorrhage, Traumatic / etiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Transfer
  • Prognosis
  • Registries
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skull Fractures / diagnostic imaging
  • Skull Fractures / etiology
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / diagnostic imaging
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage / etiology
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*