Paper| Volume 26, ISSUE 5, P333-334, June 1995

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Skull fractures in children: altered conscious level is the main indication for urgent CT scanning

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      It has been suggested that all children with skull fractures require urgent CT scanning to exclude intracranial injury. Adhering to such a policy could both tax limited scanning facilities and result in unnecessary exposure to radiation. The aim of this study is to assess the level of consciousness in determining the need for urgent CT scanning, and the possible role of the mechanism of injury as a secondary risk factor. We identified 140 children admitted during a 7-year period with a skull fracture after falling outside the home. Thirteen children had a diminished level of consciousness. Scans were performed in nine, and seven of the scans revealed significant intracranial injuries. By comparison, all 127 children with a normal level of consciousness recovered fully. Scanning was performed in only eight of them; seven scans were normal and one revealed a small subarachnoid haemorrhage which did not require active treatment. In addition, all 13 children with a diminished level of consciousness had sustained their injuries by falling from greater than their own standing height. By comparison, none of the children who had sustained their skull fractures by tripping up had a diminished level of consciousness or a significant intracranial injury. We conclude that all children with a diminished level of consciousness need to undergo an urgent CT scan. Children with skull fractures and a normal conscious level may be managed initially by neuroobservations and the clinican may be further reassured if the child's injury resulted from tripping up.
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