Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Children's Health

Font Size

Observation After Head Injury Cuts Kids’ CT Scans

Study Shows Advantages of Postponing CT Scans in Emergency Rooms
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

May 9, 2011 -- A period of observation in the emergency department after a minor childhood head injury can reduce the use of a CT scan by as much as half without affecting good care, according to a new study.

As a result, the child may be exposed to less radiation. That reduces the long-term risks, such as the link with accumulated radiation exposure and cancers.

"We document that observation after minor blunt head trauma reduces CT scan use without missing important injuries," says researcher Lise Nigrovic, MD, MPH, attending physician in emergency medicine at Children's Hospital Boston and assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

With other researchers from the federally funded Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network, Nigrovic evaluated more than 40,000 children. All were under age 18 and had minor blunt head trauma. They had been brought to one of 25 emergency departments between June 2004 and September 2006.

The study is published in Pediatrics.

Observation vs. CT Scan

Of the 42,412 children enrolled in the study, the researchers analyzed 40,113.

The minor head trauma occurred in a variety of ways, Nigrovic tells WebMD. "In the youngest, the most common is a fall, such as rolling off the bed, or running at high speed into another object."

For older children, the head injuries were often the result of sports activity or car accidents.

Of the 40,113 children, 5433 (14%) of the children were observed before making a decision on CT.

The CT use was lower in those who were observed than in those not -- 31.1% compared to 35%.

However, the rate of clinically important traumatic brain injury found in both groups was similar.

The researchers did not determine the actual observation time. However, guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend a child be observed carefully for four to six hours after such injuries.

During the observation period, doctors check for changes in mental status, changes in vital signs (blood pressure, etc.) and any increase in nausea or pain.

The researchers matched the observed and non-observed for severity of injury and the practice patterns of various hospitals. They found the likelihood of a CT scan in the observed group was about half that of the similar non-observed patients.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

child with red rash on cheeks
What’s that rash?
plate of fruit and veggies
How healthy is your child’s diet?
smiling baby
Treating diarrhea, fever and more.
Middle school band practice
Understanding your child’s changing body.

worried kid
jennifer aniston
Measles virus
sick child

Child with adhd
rl with friends
Syringes and graph illustration