Role of routine repeat head imaging in paediatric traumatic brain injury

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Paediatric traumatic brain injuries (TBI) remain a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in Australia. There are clear guidelines on head imaging for children with TBI, but there is conflicting evidence on the role of routine repeat head computed tomography (CT) scan. This study aims to determine whether routine repeat head CT scans in paediatric TBI alter surgical or medical management.


A retrospective study was performed at a level 1 tertiary paediatric trauma centre between January 2002 and July 2012. Patients with TBI who were admitted with acute intracranial injury and at least one repeat head CT scan were included. Mechanism of injury, severity of TBI, Glasgow Coma Score, use of intracranial pressure monitoring and operative procedures were listed. The need for operative management was compared for routine and clinically indicated head scans.


Routine head CT scan was done in 36 out of 71 patients (51%). None from this group required craniotomy, but two children (6%) needed delayed ICP monitoring. Three patients with moderate to severe TBI required intracranial pressure monitor or external ventricular drain insertion based on a clinically indicated repeat head CT.


Repeat head imaging is more likely to alter management of children with moderate to severe TBI. There is no role for routine repeat CT scan on mild TBI. Results of repeat cranial imaging should be correlated with the clinical status of the patient.

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