American Academy of Pediatrics

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Released February 21, 2013; sources updated July 13, 2016

Computed tomography (CT) scans are not necessary in the immediate evaluation of minor head injuries; clinical observation/Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network (PECARN) criteria should be used to determine whether imaging is indicated.

Minor head injuries occur commonly in children and adolescents. Approximately 50% of children who visit hospital emergency departments with a head injury are given a CT scan, many of which may be unnecessary. Unnecessary exposure to x-rays poses considerable danger to children including increasing the lifetime risk of cancer because a child’s brain tissue is more sensitive to ionizing radiation. Unnecessary CT scans impose undue costs to the health care system. Clinical observation prior to CT decision-making for children with minor head injuries is an effective approach.


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How The List Was Created

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) employed a three-stage process to develop its list. Using the Academy’s varied online, print and social media communication vehicles, the first stage invited leadership of the Academy’s 88 national clinical and health policy-driven committees, councils and sections to submit potential topics via an online survey. The second stage involved expert review and evaluation of the management groups that oversee the functions of the committees, councils and sections. Based on a set of criteria (evidence to document unproven clinical benefit, potential to cause harm, over-prescribed and utilized, and within the purview of pediatrics) a list of more than 100 topics was narrowed down to five. Finally, the list was reviewed and approved by the Academy’s Board of Directors and Executive Committee.

AAP’s disclosure and conflict of interest policy can be found at www.aap.org.

Sources

Dunning J, Batchelor J, Stratford-Smith P, Teece S, Browne J, Sharpin C, Mackway-Jones K. A meta-analysis of variables that predict significant intracranial injury in minor head trauma. Arch Dis Child [Internet]. 2004 Jul;89(7):653–9.

Kuppermann N, Holmes, JF, Dayan PS, Hoyle JD Jr, Atabaki SM, Holubkov R, Nadel FM, Monroe D, Stanley RM, Borgialli DA, Badawy MK, Schunk JE, Quayle KS, Mahajan P, Lichenstein R, Lillis KA, Tunik MG, Jacobs ES, Callahan JM, Gorelick MH, Glass TF, Lee LK, Bachman MC, Cooper A, Powell EC, Gerardi MJ, Melville KA, Muizelaar JP, Wisner DH, Zuspan SJ, Dean JM, Wootton-Gorges SL; Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network (PECARN). Identification of children at very low-risk of clinically-important brain injuries after head trauma: A prospective cohort study. Lancet [Internet]. 2009 Oct;374(9696):1160–70.

Nigrovic LE, Schunk JE, Foerster A, Cooper A, Miskin M, Atabaki SM, Hoyle J, Dayan PS, Holmes JF, Kuppermann N, Traumatic Brain Injury Group for the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network. The effect of observation on cranial computed tomography utilization for children after blunt head trauma. Pediatrics [Internet]. 2011 Jun;127(6):1067–1073.

Ryan ME, Palasis S, Saigal G, Singer AD, Karmazyn B, Dempsey ME, Dillman JR, Dory CE, Garber M, Hayes LL, Iyer RS, Mazzola CA, Raske ME, Rice HE, Rigsby CK, Sierzenski PR, Strouse PJ, Westra SJ, Wooten-Gorges SL, Coley BD. Appropriateness criteria head trauma—child. J Am Coll of Radiol. Oct 2014;11(10):939-47.