Factors associated with avoidable interhospital transfers for children with a minor head injury

Fabrice Mowbray, Rajan Arora, Meghna Shukla, Hadeel Shihan, Nirupama Kannikeswaran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Introduction: Children with minor head injuries (MHI) are routinely transferred to a pediatric trauma center for definitive care. Unwarranted transfers result in minimal benefit to the patient and add substantially to healthcare costs. The purpose of this study is to explore the factors associated with avoidable interhospital transfers of children with MHI. Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of children <18 years of age transferred to our pediatric emergency department (PED) for MHI between January 2013 and December 2018. Patients transferred for non-accidental trauma, and those with a history of coagulopathies, underlying neurological conditions, intraventricular shunts and developmental delay were excluded. Transfers were categorized as avoidable if none of the following interventions were required at our PED: procedural sedation, anticonvulsant initiation, subspecialty consultation, intensive care unit admission or hospital admission for ≥2 nights, intubation or operative intervention. We collected demographics, injury mechanism, neuroimaging results, interventions performed and PED disposition. Binary logistic regression was conducted to provide adjusted associations between patient characteristics and the risk of avoidable interhospital transfers. Results: We analyzed 1078 transfers for MHI, of which 450 (42%) transfers were classified as avoidable. Children in the avoidable transfer group tended to be younger, less likely to have experienced loss of consciousness, and more likely to belong to the the group at lowest risk for a clinically important traumatic brain injury (ciTBI). Our multivariable model determined that children less than 2 years of age (OR = 1.75; 95% CI = 1.3–2.37), low-risk group for ciTBI (OR = 1.66; 95% CI = 1.22–0.1), and a positive head CT at the transferring hospital (OR = 0.06; 95% CI = 0.02–0.1) were all significantly associated with avoidable transfers. Conclusion: There is a high rate of avoidable transfers in children with MHI. Focused interventions targeting risk factors associated with avoidable transfers may reduce unwarranted interhospital transfers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-212
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Avoidable transfers
  • Children
  • Emergency department
  • Minor head injury
  • Risk factors


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