American Academy of Pediatrics

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Released February 21, 2013; sources updated July 13, 2016 and June 12, 2018

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.

These items are provided solely for informational purposes and are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a medical professional. Patients with any specific questions about the items on this list or their individual situation should consult their physician.

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.

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