Comparison of Computed Tomography Use and Mortality in Severe Pediatric Blunt Trauma at Pediatric Level I Trauma Centers Versus Adult Level 1 and 2 or Pediatric Level 2 Trauma Centers

Pediatr Emerg Care. 2022 Jan 1;38(1):e138-e142. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000002183.


Introduction: Computed tomography (CT) is the criterion standard for identifying blunt trauma injuries in pediatric patients, but there are long-term risks of CT exposure. In pediatric blunt trauma, multiple studies have shown that increased CT usage does not necessarily equate to improvements in mortality. The aim of this study was to compare CT usage between level 1 pediatric trauma centers versus level 2 pediatric centers and adult level 1 and 2 centers.

Methods: We performed a retrospective, multicenter analysis of National Trauma Data Bank patient records from the single admission year of 2015. Eligible subjects were defined as younger than 18 years with abdominal or thoracic blunt trauma, had an Injury Severity Scale score of greater than 15, and were treated at a level 1 or 2 trauma center. Data were then compared between children treated at level 1 pediatric trauma centers (PTC group) versus level 2 PTCs or adult level 1/2 trauma centers (ATC group). The primary outcomes measured were rates of head, thoracic, abdominal CT, and mortality. Data from ATC and PTC groups were propensity matched for age, sex, race, and Glasgow Coma Scale.

Results: There were 6242 patients after exclusion criteria. Because of differences in patient demographics, we propensity matched 2 groups of 1395 patients. Of these patients, 39.6% of PTC patients received abdominal CT versus 45.5% of ATC patients (P = 0.0017). Similarly, 21.9% of PTC patients received thoracic CT versus 34.7% of ATC patients (P < 0.0001). There was no difference in head CT usage between PTC and ATC groups (P = 1.0000). There was no significant difference in mortality between patients treated in the PTC versus ATC groups (P = 0.1198).

Conclusions: Among children with severe blunt trauma, patients treated at level 1 PTCs were less likely to receive thoracic and abdominal CTs than those treated at level 2 pediatric or adult trauma level 1/2 centers, with no significant differences in mortality. These findings support the use of selective imaging in severe blunt pediatric trauma.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Trauma Centers*
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating* / diagnostic imaging