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Pediatr Emerg Care. 2013 Aug;29(8):884-7. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0b013e31829ec0d9.

Evaluation of emergency medicine discharge instructions in pediatric head injury.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY 13202, USA.



Pediatric head trauma is a common occurrence. There is mounting evidence that even patients with minor head injury require limits on school activities and/or removal from sports and play to help speed recovery and limit morbidity. The objective of this study was to determine whether discharge instructions given to children who had sustained head injuries included information regarding activity restrictions, activity time constraints, and/or specifics of follow-up care.


This was a retrospective chart review of patients aged 2 to 18 years evaluated and treated for head injury during a 4-month period at a level I trauma center (volume ∼23,000 pediatric patients per year). Included were those children seen, evaluated, and diagnosed with any of the following: mild head injury, concussion, minor head trauma, or mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). Subjects were excluded if there was a positive acute head injury computed tomography finding (other than findings of a simple linear skull fracture) or if the subject required admission.


Among the 204 patients meeting eligibility, 95.1% received instruction to follow up with a physician, 82.8% received anticipatory guidance regarding expected symptoms, 15.2% received specific restriction time from sports, and 21.5% were removed from sports. Of these patients, 113 patients were determined "likely" to have sustained an mTBI. Patients with sports-related mTBI received return-to-sports restrictions (χ2 = 11.225, P < 0.008) and to remove the child from play (χ2 = 9.781, P < 0.004) as discharge instructions significantly more than did patients with motor vehicle accident or other mechanisms of injury.


Children sustaining head injury were inadequately instructed to restrict athletic activities upon discharge. This is particularly true for patients who sustain an mTBI from non-sports-related activity.

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