Occult Head Injury in Children Less Than 2 Years With Suspected Child Abuse in the Emergency Department

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This study aims to determine the frequency of clinically significant findings requiring emergent neurosurgical intervention on computed tomography (CT) in neurologically intact children admitted to the hospital with suspected abuse.


This was a retrospective review of neurologically stable children (0–24 months) in whom both skeletal survey and CT head were performed for child abuse evaluation from 2000 to 2011.


A total of 132 patients met inclusion criteria (mean age, 7.6 mo; 55% male, 52% Caucasian, and 34% African-American). Computed tomography scans demonstrated occult head injury in 5%; none required neurosurgical intervention or had any neurological deterioration. Average length of stay was 4 days, with average time to CT scan being 12.8 hours from triage, and average time to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of 70.5 hours. Five MRIs were performed, and 4 had identical results on CT scan.


No clinically significant brain injury (requiring intervention) was seen in this cohort. These findings support delaying imaging in neurologically intact children to obtain MRI after hospital admission, thus, limiting radiation exposure.

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