Introduction: Questions surround the appropriate emergency department (ED) disposition of children who have sustained blunt head trauma (BHT). Our objective was to identify physician disposition preferences of children with blunt head trauma (BHT) and varying computed tomography (CT) findings.
Methods: We surveyed pediatric and general emergency physicians (EP), pediatric neurosurgeons (PNSurg), general neurosurgeons (GNSurg), pediatric surgeons (PSurg) and trauma surgeons regarding care of two hypothetical patients: Case 1: a 9-year-old who fell 10 feet and Case 2: an 11-month-old who fell 5 feet. We presented various CT findings and asked physicians about disposition preferences. We evaluated predictors of patient discharge using multivariable regression analysis adjusting for hospital and ED characteristics and clinician experience. Pediatric EPs served as the reference group.
Results: Of 2,341 eligible surveyed, 715 (31%) responded. Most would discharge children with linear skull fractures (Case 1, 71%; Case 2, 62%). Neurosurgeons were more likely to discharge children with small subarachnoid hemorrhages (Case 1 PNSurg OR 6.87, 95% CI 3.60, 13.10; GNSurg OR 6.54, 95% CI 2.38, 17.98; Case 2 PNSurg OR 5.38, 95% CI 2.64, 10.99; GNSurg OR 6.07, 95% CI 2.08, 17.76). PSurg were least likely to discharge children with any CT finding, even linear skull fractures (Case 1 OR 0.14, 95% CI 0.08, 0.23; Case 2 OR 0.18, 95% CI 0.11, 0.30). Few respondents (<6%) would discharge children with small intraventricular, subdural, or epidural bleeds.
Conclusion: Substantial variation exists between specialties in reported hospitalization practices of neurologically-normal children with BHT and traumatic CT findings. [West J Emerg Med. 2013;14(1):29-36.]