Association of traumatic brain injuries with vomiting in children with blunt head trauma

Peter S. Dayan, James F Holmes Jr, Shireen Atabaki, John Hoyle, Michael G. Tunik, Richard Lichenstein, Elizabeth Alpern, Michelle Miskin, Nathan Kuppermann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

39 Scopus citations


Study objective We aimed to determine the prevalence of traumatic brain injuries in children who vomit after minor blunt head trauma, particularly when the vomiting occurs without other findings suggestive of traumatic brain injury (ie, isolated vomiting). We also aimed to determine the relationship between the timing and degree of vomiting and traumatic brain injury prevalence. Methods This was a secondary analysis of children younger than 18 years with minor blunt head trauma. Clinicians assessed for history and characteristics of vomiting at the initial evaluation. We assessed for the prevalence of clinically important traumatic brain injury and traumatic brain injury on computed tomography (CT). Results Of 42,112 children enrolled, 5,557 (13.2%) had a history of vomiting, of whom 815 of 5,392 (15.1%) with complete data had isolated vomiting. Clinically important traumatic brain injury occurred in 2 of 815 patients (0.2%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0% to 0.9%) with isolated vomiting compared with 114 of 4,577 (2.5%; 95% CI 2.1% to 3.0%) with nonisolated vomiting (difference -2.3%, 95% CI -2.8% to -1.5%). Of patients with isolated vomiting for whom CT was performed, traumatic brain injury on CT occurred in 5 of 298 (1.7%; 95% CI 0.5% to 3.9%) compared with 211 of 3,284 (6.4%; 95% CI 5.6% to 7.3%) with nonisolated vomiting (difference -4.7%; 95% CI -6.0% to -2.4%). We found no significant independent associations between prevalence of clinically important traumatic brain injury and traumatic brain injury on CT with either the timing of onset or time since the last episode of vomiting. Conclusion Traumatic brain injury on CT is uncommon and clinically important traumatic brain injury is very uncommon in children with minor blunt head trauma when vomiting is their only sign or symptom. Observation in the emergency department before determining the need for CT appears appropriate for many of these children.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)657-665
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of Emergency Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2014


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Medicine(all)

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