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Computed Tomography Use in Children With Minor Head Trauma Presenting to 21 Community Emergency Departments Within an Integrated Health-Care System

Decreasing unnecessary cranial computed tomography (CT) use in pediatric head trauma patients remains important for emergency departments (EDs) across the US. Our study evaluated CT use in children with minor blunt head trauma in 21 community EDs within an integrated health-care system. We studied all children younger than 18 years old presenting to 21 community EDs between 2016 through 2018 with acute minor blunt head trauma, defined by an algorithm of ED chief complaints and diagnoses. We excluded patients with traumatic brain injuries diagnosed in the prior year, a CT within 24 hours prior to the ED visit, or an ED Glasgow Coma Scale score of less than 14. Among 39,792 pediatric minor head trauma ED visits, the aggregate CT use proportion across all EDs was 12.9% [95% confidence interval (CI), 12.6-13.3%; facility-level range, 5.4-21.6%]. The 7 facilities that had previously received a clinical decision support system intervention implementing the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network rules during 2013 through 2014 had an aggregate mean CT ordering rate of 11.2% (95% CI, 10.7-11.7%; facility-level range, 5.4-14.3%) compared to 14.1% (95% CI, 13.6-14.5%; facility-level range, 7.3-21.6%) for the nonintervention facilities. CT use for children with minor blunt head trauma in the community EDs of an integrated health-care system was low and stable across facilities from 2016 through 2018. This may be indicative of the safe stewardship of resources in the system, including the absence of financial or medicolegal incentives to scan very low-risk patients as well the availability of resources for close patient follow-up.

Authors: Shan, Judy; Warton, E Margaret; Reed, Mary E; Vinson, David R; Kuppermann, Nathan; Dayan, Peter S; Dalziel, Stuart R; Rauchwerger, Adina S; Ballard, Dustin W

Perm J. 2021 Nov 22;26(1):32-37. Epub 2021-11-22.

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