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Childs Nerv Syst. 2012 Jul;28(7):1063-8. doi: 10.1007/s00381-012-1717-9. Epub 2012 Feb 15.

Brain CT scan for pediatric minor accidental head injury. An Italian experience and review of literature.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, Catholic University of Rome, Rome, Italy.



Every year 300,000 children with accidental head trauma are admitted to Italian emergency departments. Our aims were: (1) to describe patients with minor traumatic brain injury who were admitted to pediatric departments and underwent CT, and (2) to analyze the appropriateness of management according to current guidelines.


We retrospectively analyzed patients with minor head injury (median age 4.5 years, range 1 month to 16 years) who were admitted to the pediatric department of the Catholic Medical School of Rome, from January 2005 to September 2010, who performed head CT. Univariate analysis was performed using the Fisher's exact test. Multivariate analysis was performed by logistic regression.


One hundred and seventy-four patients were enrolled in the study. Fifty-four patients (31%) had pathological CT findings. Eight patients underwent neurosurgical treatments. Vomiting was the only symptom significantly prevalent in the infant group, compared to the children group (10.7% vs. 38.9%, p = 0.007), while loss of consciousness in the children group (50.0% vs. 25.0%, p = 0.040). The relationship between scalp swelling and CT abnormalities was statistically significant in the entire population. The incidence of head abnormalities was significantly higher in children with abnormal CT (92.6% vs. 72.5%).


The best way to manage children with minor head trauma is still matter of debate. Loss of consciousness and scalp swelling are risk factors predicting brain injury that deserve CT control. The radiation risks posed by CT scanning in children must be balanced by the benefits. We believe that even though CT scans may be clinically unnecessary in many cases, the rate of scanning is justified by the even limited number of abnormalities which require neurosurgical treatment.

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