Association of Clinical Guidelines and Decision Support with Computed Tomography Use in Pediatric Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

J Pediatr. 2021 Aug;235:178-183.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2021.04.026. Epub 2021 Apr 22.


Objective: To examine whether the presence of clinical guidelines and clinical decision support (CDS) for mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) are associated with lower use of head computed tomography (CT).

Study design: We conducted a cross-sectional study of 45 pediatric emergency departments (EDs) in the Pediatric Hospital Information System from 2015 through 2019. We included children discharged with mTBI and surveyed ED clinical directors to ascertain the presence and implementation year of clinical guidelines and CDS. The association of clinical guidelines and CDS with CT use was assessed, adjusting for relevant confounders. As secondary outcomes, we evaluated ED length of stay and rates of 3-day ED revisits and admissions after revisits.

Results: There were 216 789 children discharged with mTBI, and CT was performed during 20.3% (44 114/216 789) of ED visits. Adjusted hospital-specific CT rates ranged from 11.8% to 34.7% (median 20.5%, IQR 17.3%, 24.3%). Of the 45 EDs, 17 (37.8%) had a clinical guideline, 9 (20.0%) had CDS, and 19 (42.2%) had neither. Compared with EDs with neither a clinical guideline nor CDS, visits to EDs with CDS (aOR 0.52 [0.47, 0.58]) or a clinical guideline (aOR 0.83 [0.78, 0.89]) had lower odds of including a CT for mTBI. ED length of stay and revisit rates did not differ based on the presence of a clinical guideline or CDS.

Conclusions: Clinical guidelines for mTBI, and particularly CDS, were associated with lower rates of head CT use without adverse clinical outcomes.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain Concussion / diagnostic imaging*
  • Brain Concussion / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Databases, Factual
  • Decision Support Systems, Clinical*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / statistics & numerical data*