Management of low-risk head injuries in an entire area: results of an 18-month survey

Surg Neurol. 1993 Apr;39(4):269-75. doi: 10.1016/0090-3019(93)90003-j.


All patients admitted following a minor head injury (GCS is without neurological deficits) during an 18 month period in an entire area were submitted to the same diagnostic and therapeutic protocol. Adult patients were x rayed and in the cases with skull fracture (even asymptomatic), a computed tomographic (CT) scan was performed. Children (below the age of 14) did not routinely receive skull X-rays but were admitted to one of the five regional hospitals where a CT scanner was available 24 hours per day. Neuroradiologic investigations (carried out in over 600 patients) showed posttraumatic lesions in 201 cases; 113 of these patients were transferred to the neurosurgical center. There were 49 patients with extradural hematomas, 41 with brain contusions, 17 with depressed skull fractures, and six with subdural hematomas. Of these 113, 40 patients were operated on (mainly extradural hematomas); surgical indications were based on appearance of clinical deterioration, lesion volume, presence of midline shift, and/or compressed third ventricle and basal cisterns. In eight cases there was a clinical deterioration to a GCS of 13 or less; in all of these patients, the CT diagnosis (and transfer to a neurosurgical center, preceded the onset of deterioration. All patients admitted to such a center had a good outcome, but a survey of deaths related to head injury in the area revealed two fatalities following minor head injury. The only avoidable death was a patient with multiple brain contusions who developed sudden brain swelling on day 12 post-trauma. We conclude that, even if management mortality is not zero, our protocol is sufficiently safe for the treatment of minor head injury.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / diagnostic imaging
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skull Fractures / diagnostic imaging
  • Skull Fractures / therapy
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed