Is repeat head CT necessary in patients with mild traumatic intracranial hemorrhage

Am J Emerg Med. 2019 Sep;37(9):1694-1698. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2018.12.012. Epub 2018 Dec 10.


Background: Patients with traumatic intracranial hemorrhage (TIH) frequently receive repeat head CT scans (RHCT) to assess for progression of TIH. The utility of this practice has been brought into question, with some studies suggesting that in the absence of progressive neurologic symptoms, the RHCT does not lead to clinical interventions.

Methods: This was a retrospective review of consecutive patients with CT-documented TIH and GCS ≥ 13 presenting to an academic emergency department from 2009 to 2013. Demographic, historical, and physical exam variables, number of CT scans during admission were collected with primary outcomes of: neurological decline, worsening findings on repeat CT scan, and the need for neurosurgical intervention.

Results: Of these 1126 patients with mild traumatic intracranial hemorrhage, 975 had RHCT. Of these, 54 (5.5% (4.2-7.2 95 CI) had neurological decline, 73 (7.5% 5.9-9.3 95 CI) had hemorrhage progression on repeat CT scan, and 58 (5.9% 4.5-7.6 95 CI) required neurosurgical intervention. Only 3 patients (0.3% 0.1-0.9% 95 CI) underwent neurosurgical intervention due to hemorrhage progression on repeat CT scan without neurological decline. In this scenario, the number of RHCT scans needed to be performed to identify this one patient is 305.

Conclusions: RHCT after initial findings of TIH and GCS ≥ 13 leading to a change to operative management in the absence of neurologic progression is a rare event. A protocol that includes selective RHCT including larger subdural hematomas or patients with coagulopathy (vitamin K inhibitors and anti-platelet agents) may be a topic for further study.

Keywords: Imaging utilization; Mild intracranial hemorrhage; Traumatic brain injury; Traumatic cranial computerized tomography.

MeSH terms

  • Disease Progression
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Hematoma, Epidural, Cranial / diagnostic imaging
  • Hematoma, Epidural, Cranial / physiopathology
  • Hematoma, Epidural, Cranial / surgery
  • Hematoma, Subdural, Intracranial / diagnostic imaging
  • Hematoma, Subdural, Intracranial / physiopathology
  • Hematoma, Subdural, Intracranial / surgery
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Hemorrhage, Traumatic / diagnostic imaging*
  • Intracranial Hemorrhage, Traumatic / physiopathology
  • Intracranial Hemorrhage, Traumatic / surgery
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurosurgical Procedures
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage, Traumatic / diagnostic imaging
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage, Traumatic / physiopathology
  • Subarachnoid Hemorrhage, Traumatic / surgery
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*