The diagnosis of concussion in a pediatric emergency department

J Pediatr. 2015 May;166(5):1214-1220.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2015.02.013.


Objectives: To compare the proportion of children diagnosed with a concussion by pediatric emergency physicians vs the proportion who met criteria for this injury as recommended by Zurich Fourth International Conference on Concussion consensus statement and to determine clinical variables associated with a physician diagnosis of a concussion.

Study design: This was a prospective, cross-sectional study conducted at a tertiary care pediatric emergency department. We enrolled children ages 5 through 17 who presented with a head injury and collected data on demographics, mechanism of injury, head injury-related symptoms/signs, physician diagnosis, and discharge advice.

Results: We identified 495 children whose mean age was 10.1 years (SD 3.4 years); 308 (62.2%) were male. Emergency physicians diagnosed concussion in 200 (40.4%; 95% CI 36.1, 44.7) children, and 443 (89.5%; 95% CI 86.8, 92.2) met criteria for concussion in accordance with the Zurich consensus statement (P<.0001). Age≥10 years (OR 1.8), presentation≥1 day after injury (OR 2.4), injury from collision sports (OR 5.6), and symptoms of headache (OR 2.2) or amnesia (OR 3.4) were the variables significantly associated with an emergency physician's diagnosis of concussion.

Conclusions: Pediatric emergency physicians diagnosed concussion less often relative to international consensus-based guidelines and used a limited number of variables to make this diagnosis compared with current recommendations. Thus, pediatric emergency physicians may be missing cases of concussion and the corresponding opportunity to provide critical advice for cognitive and physical management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents
  • Adolescent
  • Brain Concussion / diagnosis*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Emergency Medicine / standards
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Pediatric / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pediatrics / standards
  • Prospective Studies