Hospital emergency departments could reduce their use of pediatric head CT scans by half without lowering healthcare quality simply by instituting a required period of observation, according to new research.
Wait, watch, then decide on CT: study
In a study published online in the May 9 issue of the journal Pediatrics, physicians from Children's Hospital Boston and the University of California at Davis, found that about half of children treated in emergency departments for head injuries received a CT scan, despite the rarity of traumatic brain injury.
"Only a small percentage of children with blunt head trauma really have something serious going on," Dr. Lise Nigrovic, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Children's Hospital Boston, and co-author of the study, said in a news release. "If you can be watched in the ED for a few hours, you may not need a CT."
Curbing the number of unnecessary CT scans would save money and lower the amount of radiation exposure for pediatric patients, the authors said. That's of particular importance, they argued, because children's brains are more sensitive to radiation and children have more years to develop radiation-induced malignancies.
"The results of this analysis demonstrate that a period of observation before deciding to use head CT scans on many injured children can spare children from inappropriate radiation when it is not called for while not increasing the risk of missing important brain injuries," Dr. Nathan Kupperman, chair of the emergency medicine department at UC Davis and the study’s co-author, said in the release.
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