Medical necessity of routine admission of children with mild traumatic brain injury to the intensive care unit

Jared D. Ament, Krista N. Greenan, Patrick Tertulien, Joseph M Galante, Daniel Nishijima, Marike Zwienenberg-Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Approximately 475,000 children are treated for traumatic brain injury (TBI) in the US each year; most are classified as mild TBI (Glasgow Coma Scale [GCS] Score 13-15). Patients with positive findings on head CT, defined as either intracranial hemorrhage or skull fracture, regardless of severity, are often transferred to tertiary care centers for intensive care unit (ICU) monitoring. This practice creates a significant burden on the health care system. The purpose of this investigation was to derive a clinical decision rule (CDR) to determine which children can safely avoid ICU care. METHODS: The authors retrospectively reviewed patients with mild TBI who were ≤ 16 years old and who presented to a Level 1 trauma center between 2008 and 2013. Data were abstracted from institutional TBI and trauma registries. Independent covariates included age, GCS score, pupillary response, CT characteristics, and Injury Severity Score. A composite outcome measure, ICU-level care, was defined as cardiopulmonary instability, transfusion, intubation, placement of intracranial pressure monitor or other invasive monitoring, and/or need for surgical intervention. Stepwise logistic regression defined significant predictors for model inclusion with p < 0.10. The authors derived the CDR with binary recursive partitioning (using a misclassification cost of 20:1). RESULTS: A total of 284 patients with mild TBI were included in the analysis; 40 (14.1%) had ICU-level care. The CDR consisted of 5 final predictor variables: midline shift > 5 mm, intraventricular hemorrhage, nonisolated head injury, postresuscitation GCS score of < 15, and cisterns absent. The CDR correctly identified 37 of 40 patients requiring ICU-level care (sensitivity 92.5%; 95% CI 78.5-98.0) and 154 of 244 patients who did not require an ICU-level intervention (specificity 63.1%; 95% CI 56.7-69.1). This results in a negative predictive value of 98.1% (95% CI 94.1-99.5). CONCLUSIONS: The authors derived a clinical tool that defines a subset of pediatric patients with mild TBI at low risk for ICU-level care. Although prospective evaluation is needed, the potential for improved resource allocation is significant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)668-674
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017


  • Clinical decision rule
  • ICU monitoring
  • Resource allocation
  • Trauma
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Triage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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