Does an isolated history of loss of consciousness or amnesia predict brain injuries in children after blunt head trauma?

Michael J. Palchak, James F Holmes Jr, Cheryl Vance, Rebecca E. Gelber, Bobbie A. Schauer, Mathew J. Harrison, Jason Willis-Shore, Sandra L. Wootton-Gorges, Robert W. Derlet, Nathan Kuppermann

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42 Scopus citations

Abstract

BACKGROUND: A history of loss of consciousness (LOC) is frequently used as an indication for cranial computed tomography (CT) in the emergency department (ED) evaluation of children with blunt head trauma. OBJECTIVE: We sought to determine whether an isolated LOC and/or amnesia is predictive of traumatic brain injury (TBI) in children with blunt head trauma. METHODS: We prospectively enrolled children <18 years old presenting to a level I trauma center ED between July 1998 and September 2001 with blunt head trauma. We evaluated the association of LOC and/or amnesia with 1) TBI identified on CT and 2) TBI requiring acute intervention. We defined the latter by a neurosurgical procedure, antiepileptic medication for >1 week, persistent neurologic deficits, or hospitalization for > or =2 nights. We then investigated the association of LOC and/or amnesia with TBI in those patients without other symptoms or signs of TBI ("isolated" LOC and/or amnesia). RESULTS: Of eligible children, 2043 (77%) were enrolled, 1271 (62%) of whom underwent CT; 1159 (91%) of these 1271 had their LOC and/or amnesia status known. A total of 801 (39%) of the 2043 enrolled children had a documented history of LOC and/or amnesia. Of the 745 with documented LOC and/or amnesia who underwent CT, 70 (9.4%; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 7.4%, 11.7%) had TBI identified on CT versus 11 of 414 (2.7%; 95% CI: 1.3%, 4.7%) without LOC and/or amnesia (difference: 6.7%; 95% CI: 4.1%, 9.3%). Of the 801 children known to have had LOC and/or amnesia (regardless of whether they underwent CT), 77 (9.6%; 95% CI: 7.7%, 11.9%) had TBI requiring acute intervention versus 11 of 1115 (1%; 95% CI: 0.5%, 1.8%) of those without LOC and/or amnesia (difference: 8.6%; 95% CI: 6.5%, 10.7%). For those with an isolated LOC and/or amnesia without other signs or symptoms of TBI, however, 0 of 142 (95% CI: 0%, 2.1%) had TBI identified on CT, and 0 of 164 (95% CI: 0%,1.8%) had TBI requiring acute intervention. CONCLUSIONS: Isolated LOC and/or amnesia, defined by the absence of other clinical findings suggestive of TBI, are not predictive of either TBI on CT or TBI requiring acute intervention. Elimination of an isolated LOC and/or amnesia as an indication for CT may decrease unnecessary CT use in those patients without an appreciable risk of TBI.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPediatrics
Volume113
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health

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    Palchak, M. J., Holmes Jr, J. F., Vance, C., Gelber, R. E., Schauer, B. A., Harrison, M. J., Willis-Shore, J., Wootton-Gorges, S. L., Derlet, R. W., & Kuppermann, N. (2004). Does an isolated history of loss of consciousness or amnesia predict brain injuries in children after blunt head trauma? Pediatrics, 113(6).