Can we abolish skull x rays for head injury?

Matthew J. Reed*, J. G. Browning, A. G. Wilkinson, T. Beattie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Objectives: To assess the effect of a change in skull x ray policy on the rate of admission, use of computed tomography (CT), radiation dose per head injury, and detection of intracranial injuries; and to compare the characteristics of patients with normal and abnormal head CT. Design: Retrospective cohort study. Setting: UK paediatric teaching hospital emergency department. Patients: 1535 patients aged between 1 and 14 years with a head injury presenting to the emergency department between 1 August 1998 and 31 July 1999 (control period), and 1867 presenting between 1 August 2002 and 31 July 2003 (first year of new skull x ray policy). Intervention: Hospital notes and computer systems were analysed and data were collected on all patients presenting with a head injury. Results: The abolition of skull x rays in children aged over 1 year prevented about 400 normal skull x rays being undertaken in period 2. The percentage of children undergoing CT rose from 1.0% to 2.1% with no change in the positive CT pick up rate (25.6% v 25.0%). There was no significant change in admission rate (10.9% v 10.1%), and a slight decrease in the radiation dose per head injury (0.042 mSv compared to 0.045 mSv). Conclusions: Skull x rays can be abandoned in children aged 1 to 14 without a significant increase in admission rate, radiation dose per head injury, or missed intracranial injury. The mechanism and history of the injury and a reduced Glasgow coma scale are probably the most important indicators of significant head injury in children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)859-864
Number of pages6
JournalArchives of Disease in Childhood
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2005


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