Minor head injury transfers: Trends and outcomes

Hadeel A. Shihan, Rajan Arora, Fabrice Mowbray, Meghna Shukla, Alejandro Miranda, Nirupama Kannikeswaran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Children with traumatic head injury are often transferred from community Emergency Departments (ED) to a Pediatric Emergency Department (PED). The primary objective of this study was to describe the outcomes of minor head injury (MHI) transfers to a PED. The secondary objective was to report Computed Tomography (CT) utilization rates for MHI. Methods: We conducted a retrospective study of children aged ≤18 years transferred to our PED for MHI from 2013 to 2018. Patients with Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) < 14, coagulopathies, history of brain mass/shunt and suspected non-accidental trauma were excluded. Data collected included demographics, interventions performed, and disposition. MHI risk stratification and clinically important traumatic brain injury (ciTBI) were defined per the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network (PECARN) head injury guidelines. Descriptive statistics were reported using general measures of frequency and central tendency. Results: A total of 1078 children with MHI were analyzed based on eligibility criteria. The majority of patients were male (62%) and ≥ 2 years of age (69.3%). Subspecialist consultation (57.2%) and neuroimaging (27.4%) were the most commonly performed interventions in the PED. Only 14 children (1.3%) required neurosurgical intervention. One-third of the transferred patients required no additional work-up. Two-thirds of the patients (66.6%) were directly discharged from the PED. Though the total number of MHI transfers per year declined steadily during the study period (from 271/year to 119/year), CT head utilization remained relatively similar across the study years (60.3% to 70.8%). A higher proportion of children received CT in the ED when compared to the PED for low-risk (28.9% vs 15.8%) and intermediate-risk groups (42.8% vs 29.4%). Conclusions: The majority of pediatric MHI transfers are discharged home following a subspecialty consultation and/or neuroimaging. Despite guidelines and a low incidence of ciTBI, CT utilization remains high in the intermediate and low risk MHI groups, especially in the community settings. Targeted interventions are needed to reduce the potentially avoidable transfers and low-value performance of CT in children with MHI.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-85
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Children
  • Minor head injury
  • Outcome
  • Transfers


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