The objective of this study was to investigate feasibility and evaluate test characteristics of bedside ultrasound for the detection of skull fractures in children with closed head injury (CHI).
This was a prospective, observational study conducted in a pediatric emergency department of an urban tertiary care children’s hospital. A convenience sample of children younger than 18 years were enrolled if they presented with an acute CHI, and a computed tomography (CT) scan was performed. Ultrasound was performed by pediatric emergency medicine physicians with at least 1 month of training in bedside ultrasound. Ultrasound interpretation as either positive or negative for the presence of skull fracture was compared with attending radiologist CT scan dictation. Test characteristics (sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values) were calculated.
Forty-six patients were enrolled. The median age was 2 years (range, 2 months to 17 years). Eleven patients (24%) were diagnosed with skull fractures on CT scan. Bedside ultrasound had a sensitivity of 82% (95% confidence interval [CI], 48%–97%), specificity of 94% (95% CI, 79%–99%), positive predictive value of 82% (95% CI, 48%–97%), and negative predictive value of 94% (95% CI, 79%–99%).
Bedside ultrasonography can be used by pediatric emergency medicine physicians to detect skull fractures in children with acute CHI. Larger studies are needed to validate these findings. Future studies should investigate the role of this modality as an adjunct to clinical decision rules to reduce unnecessary CT scans in the evaluation of acute CHI in children.