A Prospective Evaluation of the Value of Repeat Cranial Computed Tomography in Patients With Minimal Head Injury and an Intracranial Bleed

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Abstract

Background:

Patients with minimal head injury (MHI) and intracranial bleed (ICB) detected on cranial computed tomography (CT) scan routinely undergo a repeat cranial CT within 24 hours after injury to assess for progression of intracranial injuries. While this is clearly beneficial in patients with a deteriorating neurologic status, it is of questionable value in patients with a normal neurologic examination. The goal of this study was to prospectively assess the value of a repeat cranial CT in patients with a MHI and an ICB who have a normal neurologic examination.

Methods:

A prospective analysis of all adult patients admitted to a Level I trauma center after blunt trauma causing a MHI (defined as the loss of consciousness or posttraumatic amnesia with a Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score of greater or equal to 13) and an ICB on the initial cranial CT during a 12-month period (July 2002 through July 2003) was performed. All patients with MHI were prospectively evaluated and followed until discharge. Data collected included demographics, neurologic examination and findings on the initial and repeat cranial CT scan. Outcome data included neurologic deterioration, neurosurgical intervention, and Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS) on discharge.

Results:

In all, 161 consecutive patients with MHI and a positive cranial CT scan were identified. The initial cranial CT lead to a neurosurgical intervention (1 craniotomy, 4 intracranial pressure monitors) in 4% of cases. The remaining 130 patients who met inclusion criteria, underwent a repeat cranial CT scan within 24 hours postadmission. Ninety nine (76%) patients had a normal neurologic examination at the time of their repeat cranial CT. After the repeat cranial CT none required immediate neurosurgical intervention or had delayed neurologic deterioration related to their head injury. Fifteen patients underwent additional neuroradiologic studies but none showed further progression of their ICB or lead to a change in management. One patient died from non–traumatic brain injury related causes and of the remaining 26 patients, 98% had an overall favorable GOS score (>3) on discharge. In this group of patients with MHI and ICB, the negative predictive value of a normal neurologic examination was 100%.

Conclusions:

Repeat cranial CT, in patients with a MHI and a normal neurologic examination, resulted in no change in management or neurosurgical intervention and is therefore not indicated. A multicenter prospective study would further validate these conclusions, reduce unnecessary CT scans, and likely improve our current standard of care in these patients.

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