The Effect of an Observation Unit on Pediatric Minor Head Injury

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The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of an observation unit (OU) in an emergency department on reducing unnecessary use of computed tomography (CT) for minor blunt head trauma.


This study was a retrospective before-and-after study of pediatric patients 18 years or younger with minor blunt head trauma. Patients with a Glasgow Coma Scale score of 14 or 15 who presented to the emergency department were included in the analysis. The rates of head CT use in the period before and after the institution of the OU were compared.


In total, 4706 patients were analyzed (2344 from the period before and 2362 from period after OU institution). The median age of the patients was 3 years, and 64% were male in each period. The rates of CT use were 5.7% (95% confidence interval [CI], 4.8%–6.7%) in the period before and 4.0% (95% CI, 3.3%–4.9%) in the period after OU institution (P = 0.01). The relative risk reduction was 0.70 (95% CI, 0.54–0.91).


The rate of CT use decreased by 30% as a result of OU institution. The OU was an effective means of avoiding an unnecessary head CT for pediatric minor head injuries.

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