Association of traumatic brain injuries with vomiting in children with blunt head trauma

Ann Emerg Med. 2014 Jun;63(6):657-65. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2014.01.009. Epub 2014 Feb 19.


Study objective: We aimed to determine the prevalence of traumatic brain injuries in children who vomit after minor blunt head trauma, particularly when the vomiting occurs without other findings suggestive of traumatic brain injury (ie, isolated vomiting). We also aimed to determine the relationship between the timing and degree of vomiting and traumatic brain injury prevalence.

Methods: This was a secondary analysis of children younger than 18 years with minor blunt head trauma. Clinicians assessed for history and characteristics of vomiting at the initial evaluation. We assessed for the prevalence of clinically important traumatic brain injury and traumatic brain injury on computed tomography (CT).

Results: Of 42,112 children enrolled, 5,557 (13.2%) had a history of vomiting, of whom 815 of 5,392 (15.1%) with complete data had isolated vomiting. Clinically important traumatic brain injury occurred in 2 of 815 patients (0.2%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0% to 0.9%) with isolated vomiting compared with 114 of 4,577 (2.5%; 95% CI 2.1% to 3.0%) with nonisolated vomiting (difference -2.3%, 95% CI -2.8% to -1.5%). Of patients with isolated vomiting for whom CT was performed, traumatic brain injury on CT occurred in 5 of 298 (1.7%; 95% CI 0.5% to 3.9%) compared with 211 of 3,284 (6.4%; 95% CI 5.6% to 7.3%) with nonisolated vomiting (difference -4.7%; 95% CI -6.0% to -2.4%). We found no significant independent associations between prevalence of clinically important traumatic brain injury and traumatic brain injury on CT with either the timing of onset or time since the last episode of vomiting.

Conclusion: Traumatic brain injury on CT is uncommon and clinically important traumatic brain injury is very uncommon in children with minor blunt head trauma when vomiting is their only sign or symptom. Observation in the emergency department before determining the need for CT appears appropriate for many of these children.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Injuries / complications*
  • Brain Injuries / diagnosis
  • Brain Injuries / diagnostic imaging
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Head Injuries, Closed / complications*
  • Head Injuries, Closed / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Neuroimaging
  • Prevalence
  • Time Factors
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Vomiting / epidemiology
  • Vomiting / etiology*