Because researchers still aren't sure whether too many computed tomography (CT) scans might trigger cancer years later, observation is probably a good strategy for kids who have experienced a head injury and have some risk of a serious brain injury, but do not show serious symptoms, says an article by Reuters Health based on a study to be released in the June issue of Pediatrics.
Researchers studied data on more than 40,000 children with a head injury who were taken to one of 25 different emergency rooms. The original data was collected by the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network. Physicians treating the children made a note in their records about whether each child was kept in the hospital and observed by physicians and nurses before they decided whether or not to perform a CT scan.
According to the article, about 5,400 children—or 1 in 7—were observed. Those children were slightly less likely to get a CT scan—31% of them had the head x-ray, versus 35% of children when physicians made that decision right away. In both groups, fewer than 1 of every 100 children had a serious brain injury. Twenty-six children who were observed and sent home without a CT scan came back later for an x-ray; 1 of those 26 children was diagnosed with a brain injury.
The research team concluded from that finding that observing some kids before making the decision about a CT scan might be a safe and effective way to cut back on the number of scans, says Reuters.