BACKGROUND: Previous studies proposed that routine repeat head computed tomography (RHCT) is of little value in patients with a minimal head injury (MHI) and normal neurologic examination (NE). As of 2003, routine RHCT in these MHI patients was ordered at the discretion of the attending physician. The goal of this study was to compare the neurologic outcomes of MHI patients with an intracranial bleed and a normal NE who were managed with or without a routine RHCT. METHODS: A retrospective chart review of adult patients with MHI presenting to a Level I trauma center from August 2003 to December 2008 was performed. Demographics, injury severity, and HCT findings were collected for patients managed with or without a routine RHCT. Outcome measures included delayed neurologic deterioration, neurosurgical interventions, Glasgow Outcome Scale, and hospital length of stay (LOS). RESULTS: A total of 321 MHI patients with an intracranial bleed had a normal NE 24 hours after presentation. There were no significant differences in demographics, arrival Glasgow Coma Scale score, or injury severity between the 142 (44%) patients managed with RHCT and the 179 (56%) managed without RHCT. No patient had a neurologic deterioration or required a neurosurgical intervention, regardless of initial management. There was no significant difference in the neurologic outcomes, mortality, or discharge dispositions between both groups. Patients managed without an RHCT had significantly shorter LOS (2.2 ± 2.3 days vs. 4.3 ± 6.0 days; p < 0.001) compared with those with RHCT. CONCLUSION: Our study is the first to compare early neurologic outcomes of MHI patients with or without a routine RHCT. Patients managed without an RHCT had similar neurologic outcomes and shorter hospital LOS. Our data suggest that initial HCT followed by serial NEs (not routine RHCT) should be the standard of care in this patient population. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: Therapeutic/care management study, level IV.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
- Intracranial bleed
- Minimal head injury
- Neurologic deterioration
- Repeat head computed tomography
- Traumatic brain injury