Traumatic brain injury in high versus low falls in young children and adolescents: a retrospective analysis

J Neurosurg Pediatr. 2018 Sep;22(3):233-237. doi: 10.3171/2018.2.PEDS17714. Epub 2018 Jun 1.


OBJECTIVE So-called low falls are gaining interest in traumatology. To date, there are no studies on low versus high falls in the pediatric population. The aim of the current analysis was to characterize the symptoms, diagnostics, and injuries associated with high versus low falls and to examine the effect of fall height on injuries and outcome in the context of current guideline-based recommendations. METHODS After obtaining study approval from the local ethics committee, the authors reviewed the data for patients ages 5-17 years who had been consecutively treated at either hospital associated with the University Medical Center Hamburg in the period from January 2009 to August 2014 for diagnoses including traumatic brain injury (TBI). Retrospective analysis of the electronic patient charts was performed to obtain data on demographics; accident mechanism; initial neurological status with respect to consciousness, symptoms, and Glasgow Coma Scale score; radiological studies; diagnoses; length of stay; all intracranial procedures; and Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS) score. RESULTS Sixty-five fall-related TBIs among 380 patients were identified; 26 patients fell from a height of 3 m or more and 28 fell from a height under 3 m (height undocumented in 11 cases). Patients who fell from ≥ 3 m were 22 times more likely than those who fell from < 3 m to undergo spiral CT studies in the emergency room (p = 0.05). In addition, there was a 7.4 times greater chance of undergoing cranial CT (p = 0.02). There were significantly more noncerebral injuries requiring surgery in patients who fell from ≥ 3 m versus those who fell from < 3 m (p = 0.007). There was no difference in the frequency of neurosurgical procedures performed between low and high groups. Follow-up ranged from 0 to 92 months (mean 12.5 months, median 0 months). There was no significant difference in good (GOS score 4-5) and poor (GOS score 1-3) outcomes between high and low falls (p = 0.208). CONCLUSIONS Low falls can be associated with intracranial hemorrhages requiring ICU monitoring and/or surgery. The authors encourage intensive monitoring and CT scans based on clinical presentation, not on fall height.

Keywords: DAI = diffuse axonal injury; GCS = Glasgow Coma Scale; GOS = Glasgow Outcome Scale; TBI = traumatic brain injury; children; falls; trauma; traumatic brain injury.

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adolescent
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Intracranial Hemorrhages / epidemiology
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography Scanners, X-Ray Computed