Injury patterns associated with hypotension in pediatric trauma patients: A national trauma database review

J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2015 Jun;78(6):1143-8. doi: 10.1097/TA.0000000000000658.


Background: Hypotension after trauma is most commonly assumed to be hemorrhagic, or hypovolemic, in origin. However, hypotension may occur in pediatric patients with isolated head injury, challenging accepted tenets of trauma care. We sought to quantify the contribution of head injury to the development of hypotension after pediatric trauma.

Methods: This is a retrospective cohort analysis using the National Trauma Data Bank registry 2009. Children aged 0 to 15 years were classified by injury pattern sustained during trauma using discharge diagnosis International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, codes into isolated head, hemorrhagic, spinal cord, or other injury type. The primary outcome was hypotension for age at arrival to the emergency department. Risk of hypotension was estimated and compared by injury pattern using absolute and relative risks (RRs) stratified by age group (0-4 years, 5-11 years, 12-15 years).

Results: Rates of hypotension ranged from 1.8% to 2.3% by age, with the highest incidence in the 12- to 15-year group. The RR of hypotension from isolated head injury (RR, 2.5; 95% confidence interval, 2.0-3.2 vs. other) was not significantly different from the RR for hemorrhagic injury (RR, 2.7; 95% confidence interval, 2.1-3.5 vs. other) in the 0- to 4-year-old group. For the older age groups, the RR of hypotension from isolated head injury was significantly lower than from hemorrhagic injury.

Conclusion: Hypotension occurs after isolated head injury in children, and the risk of hypotension is as great as hemorrhagic injuries in children aged 0 to 4 years. This finding should now lead us to confirm whether a cause-effect relationship exists and, if so, isolate the responsible mechanism. In turn, this could reveal an opportunity to tailor treatments to address the underlying mechanism for hypotension in these children.

Level of evidence: Prognostic and epidemiologic study, level III.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / complications*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / pathology
  • Female
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Hemorrhage / complications*
  • Hemorrhage / pathology
  • Humans
  • Hypotension / epidemiology*
  • Hypotension / pathology*
  • Hypotension / therapy
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Registries
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / complications*
  • Spinal Cord Injuries / pathology
  • Trauma Centers
  • United States / epidemiology