Previous studies proposed that repeat head computed tomography
(RHCT) is of no value in patients with a minimal head injury
(MHI) and normal neurologic examination (NE). The goal of our study was to investigate the value of RHCT in patients with MHI with an abnormal NE.
A retrospective chart review of adult patients presenting to a Level I trauma center from July 2002 to December 2006 with MHI was performed. Demographics, injury severity, and HCT findings were collected. Patients with an abnormal NE at the time of RHCT were divided into three subgroups: acute deterioration NE (AD-NE), persistently abnormal NE (PA-NE), and unknown NE (U-NE). Changes in the management and outcomes after RHCT were compared.
One hundred seven patients had a MHI with an abnormal NE. Of those, seven (6.5%) had a change in management after RHCT. At the time of RHCT, 68 patients (63%) had a PA-NE, 21 AD-NE, and 18 U-NE. Six patients (29%) with AD-NE, 1 patient (6%) with an U-NE, and no patients with PA-NE required changes in management after RHCT. Compared with a RHCT, NE had higher positive and negative predictive values in determining the need for management changes.
Of all patients with MHI with an abnormal NE at the time of RHCT, 63% had a PA-NE. Although a RHCT is beneficial to patients with an acutely deteriorating or U-NE, it appears to be of little value in patients with a PA-NE. Compared with RHCT, serial NE may be a stronger predictor for the need for intervention in patients with MHI.