Objectives: The use of computers to test cognitive function acutely after a concussion is becoming increasingly popular, especially after sport-related concussion. Although commonly performed in the community, it is not yet performed routinely in the emergency department (ED), where most injured children present. The challenges of performing computerized cognitive testing (CCT) in a busy ED are considerable. The aim of this study was to evaluate the feasibility of CCT in the pediatric ED after concussion.
Methods: Children, aged 8 to 18 years with mild traumatic brain injury, presenting to the ED were eligible for this prospective study. Exclusion criteria included the use of drugs, alcohol, and/or physical injury, which could affect CCT performance. A 30- or 15-minute CCT battery was performed. Feasibility measures included environmental factors (space, noise, waiting time), testing factors (time, equipment reliability, personnel), and patient factors (age, injury characteristics).
Results: Forty-nine children (28 boys; mean age, 12.6; SD, +/- 2.5) participated in the study. All children completed CCT. Mean testing times for the 30- and 15-minute battery were 29.7 and 15.2 minutes, respectively. Noise-cancelling headphones were well tolerated. A shorter CCT was more acceptable to families and was associated with fewer noise disturbances. There was sufficient time to perform testing after triage and before physician assessment in over 90% of children.
Conclusions: Computerized cognitive testing is feasible in the ED. We highlight the unique challenges that should be considered before its implementation, including environmental and testing considerations, as well as personnel training.
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