BOSTON, May 9 (UPI) -- Observing a child with a head injury for several hours can reduce the use of head CT by as much as half without compromising care, U.S. researchers say.
Dr. Lise Nigrovic of Children's Hospital Boston, who co-led the study with Dr. Nathan Kupperman of the University of California, Davis, say roughly half of U.S. children taken to hospital emergency departments for a head injury receive a head CT scan -- often to ease worried parents or at the parent's request. However, traumatic brain injury is uncommon.
"Only a small percentage of children with blunt head trauma really have something serious going on," Nigrovic says in a statement. "If you can be watched in the emergency department for a few hours, you may not need a CT."
This change in practice would not only save money, it is better medicine because it doesn't expose children to ionizing radiation, the researchers say.
Nigrovic, Kuppermann and colleagues analyzed the outcomes of children presenting at 25 different emergency departments, as part of a large prospective study. Of 40,113 children, 14 percent were observed before making a decision about CT use. Observation times varied, as did the severity of head trauma.
The study, scheduled to be published in the journal Pediatrics, finds the likelihood of a CT scan in the observed group was about half that of similar non-observed patients. In addition, children whose symptoms improved during observation were less likely to eventually have CT, the study says.