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Paediatric minor head injury applied to Paediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network CT recommendations: An audit

Jacques du Plessis
Sharadini K. Gounden
Carolyn Lewis


Background: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a common cause of paediatric morbidity and mortality, with higher TBI rates in low- and middle-income countries. Non-contrast brain CT is the gold standard for diagnosing intracranial injuries; however, it exposes patients to ionising radiation. The Paediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network (PECARN) clinical decision rule (CDR) aids clinicians in their decision-making processes whilst deciding whether a patient at very low risk of a clinically important TBI (ciTBI) requires a CT scan.
Objectives: To establish whether the introduction of the PECARN CDR would affect CT utilisation rates for paediatric patients presenting with minor blunt head injuries to an academic hospital in Gauteng, South Africa.
Method: This was an audit of paediatric patients who presented with minor blunt head injuries and were referred for CT imaging at an academic hospital in Gauteng, compared with PECARN CDR recommendations, over a 1-year period.
Results: A total of 100 patients were referred for CT imaging. Twenty patients were classified as very low risk, none of whom had any CT findings of a TBI or ciTBI (p < 0.01). A total of 61 patients were classified as intermediate risk and 19 as high risk. In all, 23% of the intermediate and 47% of the high-risk patients had CT features of a TBI, whilst 8% and 37% had a ciTBI, respectively.
Conclusion: Computed tomography brain imaging may be omitted in patients classified as very low risk without missing a clinically important TBI. Implementing the PECARN CDR in appropriate patients would reduce CT utilisation rates.