To determine if patients who present with a history of loss of consciousness who are neurologically intact (minimal head injury) should be managed with head computed tomography (CT), observation, or both.Methods
We prospectively studied patients who presented to our urban Level I trauma center with a history of loss of consciousness after blunt trauma and a Glasgow Coma Scale score of 15. All patients underwent CT of the head and were subsequently admitted for 24 hours of observation.Results
A total of 1,170 patients with minimal head injury were studied during a 35-month period. All patients had Glasgow Coma Scale scores of 15 on arrival and had a history of either loss of consciousness or amnesia to the event. Two hundred forty-seven patients (21.1%) were intoxicated with drugs or alcohol on admission; 39 patients (3.3%) had abnormalities detected by CT, including 18 intracranial bleeds; 21 patients (1.8%) had changes in therapy as a direct result of their CT results, including 4 operative procedures. No patient with negative CT results deteriorated during the subsequent observation period.Conclusion
CT is a useful test in patients with minimal head injury because it may lead to a change in therapy in a small but significant number of patients. Subsequent hospital observation adds nothing to the CT results and is not necessary in patients with isolated minimal head injury.