Head home: implementation during COVID-19 pandemic

Emerg Med J. 2021 Sep;38(9):692-693. doi: 10.1136/emermed-2020-211007. Epub 2021 Jul 21.


Background: Recent research suggests that between 20% and 50% of paediatric head injuries attending our emergency department (ED) could be safely discharged soon after triage, without the need for medical review, using a 'Head Injury Discharge At Triage' tool (HIDAT). We sought to implement this into clinical practice.

Methods: Paediatric ED triage staff underwent competency-based assessments for HIDAT with all head injury presentations 1 May to 31 October 2020 included in analysis. We determined which patients were discharged using the tool, which underwent CT of the brain and whether there was a clinically important traumatic brain injury or representation to the ED.

Results: Of the 1429 patients screened; 610 (43%) screened negative with 250 (18%) discharged by nursing staff. Of the entire cohort, 32 CTs were performed for head injury concerns (6 abnormal) with 1 CT performed in the HIDAT negative group (normal). Of those discharged using HIDAT, four reattended, two with vomiting (no imaging or admission) and two with minor scalp wound infections. Two patients who screened negative declined discharge under the policy with later medical discharge (no imaging or admission). Paediatric ED attendances were 29% lower than in 2018.

Conclusion: We have successfully implemented HIDAT into local clinical practice. The number discharged (18%) is lower than originally described; this is likely multifactorial. The relationship between COVID-19 and paediatric ED attendances is unclear but decreased attendances suggest those for whom the tool was originally designed are not attending ED and may be accessing other medical/non-medical resources.

Keywords: emergency care systems; head; paediatric emergency med; paediatric injury; performance improvement; trauma.

MeSH terms

  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / etiology
  • Brain Injuries, Traumatic / prevention & control
  • COVID-19 / epidemiology
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control*
  • COVID-19 / transmission
  • Child
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / standards
  • Head Injuries, Closed / complications
  • Head Injuries, Closed / diagnosis*
  • Head Injuries, Penetrating / complications
  • Head Injuries, Penetrating / diagnosis*
  • Health Plan Implementation
  • Hospitals, Pediatric / organization & administration
  • Humans
  • Nurses, Pediatric / organization & administration
  • Pandemics / prevention & control
  • Patient Discharge
  • Professional Role
  • Triage / methods*
  • Triage / organization & administration
  • Triage / standards