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Pediatr Emerg Care. 2018 Sep;34(9):656-660. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000000913.

Acute Outcomes of Isolated Pneumocephali in Children After Minor Blunt Head Trauma.

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Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine at Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY.
Departments of Emergency Medicine and Pediatrics, University of California Davis School of Medicine, Sacramento, CA.
Division of Emergency Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY.



We aimed to determine the prevalence of and adverse outcomes caused by pneumocephali in children with minor blunt head trauma who had no other intracranial injuries (ie, isolated pneumocephali).


We conducted a secondary analysis of a public use dataset from a multicenter prospective study of pediatric minor head trauma. We included children younger than 18 years with Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) scores of 14 or 15 and non-trivial mechanisms of injury who had cranial computed tomographies obtained. Patients with isolated pneumocephali were those without other traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) but could have non-depressed or basilar skull fractures (BSFs). We defined adverse outcomes as death, need for neurosurgery, or intubation more than 24 hours for TBI.


Pneumocephali occurred in 148 (1.0%; 95% confidence interval, 0.8%-1.2%) of 14,983 patients; 54 (36.5%) of 148 were isolated. Of these 54 patients, 42 (77.8%) had associated BSFs (7 of whom also had linear skull fractures) and 8 (14.8%) had associated linear skull fractures without BSFs; 4 patients (7.4%) had no fractures. Thirty-three patients (61.1%) had both GCS scores of 15 and no other signs of altered mental status. All patients with isolated pneumocephali and available descriptive data (n = 26) had small-sized pneumocephali. There were no deaths, neurosurgical interventions, or intubations for more than 24 hours for TBI (95% confidence interval for any of the outcomes, 0%-7.9%) in the 54 patients with isolated pneumocephali.


Children with isolated pneumocephali and GCS scores of 14 or 15 after minor blunt head trauma are unlikely to have adverse clinical outcomes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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