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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Understanding Why Patients Return to the Emergency Department after Mild Traumatic Brain Injury within 72 Hours

  • Author(s): Ganti, Latha
  • Conroy, Lauren M.
  • Bodhit, Aakash N.
  • Daneshvar, Yasamin
  • Patel, Pratik Shashikant
  • Ayala, Sarah
  • Kuchibhotla, Sudeep
  • Hatchitt, Kelsey
  • Pulvino, Christa
  • Peters, Keith
  • Lottenberg, Lawrence
  • et al.

Introduction: Although there are approximately 1.1 million case presentations of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) in the emergency department (ED) each year, little data is available to clinicians to identify patients who are at risk for poor outcomes, including 72-hour ED return after discharge. An understanding of patients at risk for ED return visits during the hyperacute phase following head injury would allow ED providers to develop clinical interventions that reduce its occurrence and improve outcomes.

Methods: This institutional review board-approved consecutive cohort study collected injury and outcome variables on adults with the purpose of identifying positive predictors for 72-hour ED return visits in mTBI patients.

Results: Of 2,787 mTBI patients, 145 (5%) returned unexpectedly to the ED within 72 hours of hospital discharge. Positive predictors for ED return visits included being male (p=0.0298), being black (p=0.0456), having a lower prehospital Glasgow Coma Score (p=0.0335), suffering the injury due to a motor vehicle collision (p=0.0065), or having a bleed on head computed tomography (CT) (p=0.0334). ED return visits were not significantly associated with age, fracture on head CT, or symptomology following head trauma. Patients with return visits most commonly reported post-concussion syndrome (43.1%), pain (18.7%), and recall for further clinical evaluation (14.6%) as the reason for return. Of the 124 patients who returned to the ED within 72 hours, one out of five were admitted to the hospital for further care, with five requiring intensive care unit stays and four undergoing neurosurgery.

Conclusion: Approximately 5% of adult patients who present to the ED for mTBI will return within 72 hours of discharge for further care. Clinicians should identify at-risk individuals during their initial visits and attempt to provide anticipatory guidance when possible. [West J Emerg Med. 2015;16(2):481–485.]

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