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History of Head Trauma in a 6-Year-Old Boy: Maybe More than Meets the Eye (and Head)

Scherl, Leslie MD*; Douglass, Laurie MD; Augustyn, Marilyn MD

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: July/August 2013 - Volume 34 - Issue 6 - p 441–443
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0b013e31829a78a4
Challenging Case

CASE: It is spring and you are meeting for the first time, Eddie, a recently turned 6-year-old boy who moved to the area in September of the previous year and is here for his 6-year-old health maintenance visit. Eddie's mother is concerned that although he is “only” in kindergarten, he is not retaining any information at school. His mother reports he knew some of his letters before kindergarten. Currently, when he is trying to write a word, for example, “daddy” he will need to ask his mother: “what letter is the letter D?” Before kindergarten, he knew his numbers 1 to 10. At times now, Eddie will forget these numbers. For example, “if he is counting he will forget what comes after 4 and what comes after 9.” Mother reports he will start crying for no apparent reason and if she asks why, he will say “I don't know why.” Mother is worried that Eddie is sad, although she denies suicidal ideation. She reports he used to like making noise with other kids, and now he cannot stand when the children are noisy. Eddie will comment he does not want to go to school because the kids make lots of noise and his head hurts. He complains of headaches as often as 2 to 3 times a month. She next states, “This was not an issue before his head trauma.” At this point, she reveals to you that in August, before the family relocated, Eddie fell from a 7-foot deck onto concrete while playing. He struck his head on the left side and lost consciousness for several seconds until shaken awake. He was nauseous and disoriented initially but without emesis or incontinence. He was taken to the local emergency department where he was admitted for 1 day and diagnosed with closed head injury, left frontal epidural hematoma, and question of postconcussive syndrome. Eddie has gone back to see the neurosurgeon twice over the last 6 months for scheduled visits and since the accident has had no further treatment.

Eddie's mother reports that before the accident, if she read him a story from a book, he could remember the details from the story. Currently, he does not have good memory recall. Before the trauma, he did not attend a preschool program but stayed home with his mother full time. Eddie's first formal schooling has been kindergarten this year. When they moved, the neurosurgeon recommended he start school at the end of September given his head trauma in August. He had a recent computed tomography completed 3 months ago showing the epidural hematoma had completely resolved and the study was otherwise normal. His mother reports he had an evaluation the spring before the accident for a kindergarten screening test and was reported as “excellent.” Eddie's birth and medical history are otherwise unremarkable except for some seasonal allergies. He has not had a loss in language skill, although his mother reports he did not speak during his hospitalization. He would just stare and nod his head if someone would ask him a question. No family history of any learning or behavioral difficulties on either side of the family. Eddie has 2 older brothers, 10 and 7 years of age, with no learning issues.

What would you do next?

*East Boston Neighborhood Health Center; and

Department of Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine, Boston, MA.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

© 2013 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins