Young children with a minor traumatic head injury: clinical observation or CT scan?

Nicky Niele, Frans B. Plötz, Ellen Tromp, Bart Boersma, Maarten Biezeveld, Matthijs Douma, Katja Heitink, Gavin ten Tusscher, Hans B. van Goudoever, Marlies A. van Houten

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Currently, in young children with minor traumatic head injuries (MTHI) classified as intermediate risk (IR), PECARN recommends clinical observation over computer tomography (CT) scan depending on provider comfort, although both options being possible. In this study, we describe clinicians’ choice and which factors were associated with this decision. This was a planned sub-study of a prospective multicenter observational study that enrolled 1006 children younger than 18 years with MTHI who presented to six emergency departments in The Netherlands. Of those, 280 children classified as IR group fulfilling one or more minor criteria, leaving the clinician with the choice between clinical observation and a CT scan. In our cohort, 228/280 (81%) children were admitted for clinical observation, 15/280 (5.4%) received a CT scan, 6/280 (2.1%) received a CT scan and were admitted for observation, and 31/280 (11%) children were discharged from the emergency department without any intervention. Three objective factors were associated with a CT scan, namely age above 2 years, the presence of any loss of consciousness (LOC), and presentation on weekend days. Conclusion: In children with MTHI in an IR group, clinicians prefer clinical observation above performing a CT scan. Older age, day of presentation, and any loss of consciousness are factors associated with a CT scan.What is Known:• Clinical decision rules have been developed in the management of children of different risk groups with minor traumatic head injury (MTHI).• According to the Dutch national, clinical decision rules in children under 6 years of age up to 50% of children classify as intermediate risk (IR) and clinicians may choose between clinical observation and computed tomography (CT).What is New:• In this IR group, clinical observation is chosen in 81% children with MTHI.• In the subgroup where clinicians performed a CT scan, children were older and presented more frequently on a weekend day, and more frequently consciousness was lost.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3291-3297
Number of pages7
JournalEuropean journal of pediatrics
Issue number9
Early online date2022
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • Computed tomography scan
  • Guidelines
  • Observation
  • Pediatric minor traumatic head injuries

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