Reference: Dunning J, Batchelor J, Stratford-Smith P, et al. A meta-analysis of variables that predict significant intracranial injury in minor head trauma. Arch Dis Child. 2004;89:653–659.
Clinical Question: Which clinical signs or symptoms of minor head trauma are predictive of intracranial hemorrhage in children and adolescents?
Data Sources: Investigations were identified by MEDLINE and EMBASE searches from 1990 through 2002 by a search of the grey literature and by contacting experts for additional papers. The search terms were selected to find all studies reporting intracranial hemorrhage (ICH) or complications after head trauma.
Study Selection: A full systematic review was conducted, and all cohort or nested cohort studies that presented data on minor head injuries in children less than 18 years old, with or without ICH, were identified. Studies were then judged for inclusion based on the presentation of a series of at least 100 patients and a documented reliable standard for the detection of ICH for all patients in the study. The use of computed tomography (CT) and medical follow-up was considered an acceptable gold standard. Intracranial hemorrhage was defined as any abnormality detected on the CT scan due to the traumatic presence of extravascular blood. Minor head trauma was defined as patients presenting with a Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score of 13–15.
Data Extraction: Seven clinical correlates were used for data extraction, including skull fracture, headache, vomiting, focal neurology, seizure, loss of consciousness, and a GCS score of less than 15. Data were analyzed using a pooled estimate of the relative risk ratio with a random-effects model.
Main Results: The searches identified a total of 2134 studies for the initial review. After an abstract review by 2 independent examiners, 98 studies were identified for a full-paper review. Each study was graded on a 4-point scale according to the level of evidence provided, using scales consistent with the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine and the National Institute for Clinical Excellence. Thirty-four of these articles were of adequate quality for inclusion; however, many did not include data that could be separated into a specific data set for children, had too small a sample size, or lacked enough data on individual correlates to head trauma. Nineteen studies provided data on children, but 3 of these were excluded due to poor quality or lack of a reported CT scan, leaving a total of 16 studies for the meta-analysis.
The analysis included a total of 22 420 patients ranging between 0 and 18 years of age. The meta-analysis showed a significant increased relative risk of ICH for patients sustaining loss of consciousness (2.23), GCS <15 (5.51), skull fracture (6.13), and focal neurology (9.43). No significant increases in risk for headache (1.02), vomiting (0.878), or seizure (2.82) were noted; however, heterogeneity was significant for this last correlate. The prevalence of ICH ranged from 1.3 to 36%, supporting the notion of a large amount of heterogeneity or variability in the inclusion criteria among the studies.
Conclusions: These findings demonstrate that loss of consciousness, decreased level of consciousness (GCS <15), skull fracture, and focal neurology are risk factors for ICH in the pediatric population. However, these findings are not definitive enough to establish pediatric head-injury guidelines regarding CT scanning or admission to hospital after minor head trauma.