1) To determine whether clinical signs of brain injury are sensitive indicators of intracranial injury (ICI) in head-injured infants. 2) To determine whether radiographic imaging of otherwise asymptomatic infants with scalp hematoma is a useful means of detecting cases of ICI. 3) To determine whether head-injured infants without signs of brain injury or scalp hematoma may be safely managed without radiographic imaging.
We performed a 1-year prospective study of all infants younger than 2 years of age presenting to a pediatric emergency department with head trauma. Data were collected on historical features, physical findings, radiographic findings, and hospital course. Follow-up telephone calls were made 2 weeks after discharge to assess for any late deterioration.
Of 608 study subjects, 30 (5%) had ICI; 12/92 (13%) infants 0 to 2 months of age had ICI, compared with 13/224 (6%) infants 3 to 11 months of age, and 5/292 (2%) infants 12 months of age or older.
Only 16/30 (52%) subjects with ICI had at least one of the following clinical symptoms or signs of brain injury: loss of consciousness, history of behavior change, seizures, emesis, depressed mental status, irritability, bulging fontanel, focal neurologic findings, or vital signs indicating increased intracranial pressure.
Of the 14 asymptomatic subjects with ICI, 13 (93%) had significant scalp hematoma. Among subjects who had head computed tomography, significant scalp hematoma had an odds ratio of 2.78 (95% confidence interval: 1.15,6.70) for association with ICI.
A total of 265 subjects (43%) were asymptomatic and had no significant scalp hematoma. None (95% confidence interval: 0,1.2%) required specific therapy or had any subsequent clinical deterioration.
Clinical signs of brain injury are insensitive indicators of ICI in infants. A substantial fraction of infants with ICI will be detected through radiographic imaging of otherwise asymptomatic infants with significant scalp hematomas. Asymptomatic infants older than 3 months of age who have no significant scalp hematoma may be safely managed without radiographic imaging.