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Management of Pediatric Patients With Concussion by Emergency Medicine Physicians

Kinnaman, Karen A. MD*†; Mannix, Rebekah C. MD, MPH‡§; Comstock, R. Dawn PhD; Meehan, William P. III MD‡¶#**

doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000000161
Original Articles

Objective Despite an increase in concussion diagnoses among pediatric patients, little is known about the management of pediatric patients with concussion in emergency departments (EDs). The objective of this study was to assess strategies used by emergency medicine physicians when treating pediatric patients with concussions.

Methods A 17-item questionnaire was e-mailed to members of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Emergency Medicine. Two serial e-mails were distributed at 2-week intervals to nonresponders. The survey included multiple-choice and free-text questions that were created by the team of investigators on the basis of prior surveys of family practitioners and physical trainers. We collected demographic information and specific information regarding the use of medications, neuropsychological testing, neuroimaging, return-to-play decision making, and use of published guidelines. Simple descriptive statistics were used.

Results Two hundred sixty-five (29%) physicians completed the questionnaire, of which 52% had been an attending physician for more than 10 years. Ninety-nine percent of the respondents reported managing concussions, with the majority (76%) seeing more than 24 patients with concussion per year. Most clinicians (81%) reported using a published guideline in their management of concussions. The symptoms most likely to prompt head imaging in the ED included a focal neurological deficit (92%), altered mental status (82%), and intractable vomiting (80%). Most (91%) respondents reported using medications to manage the symptoms of patients with concussion, mainly acetaminophen (78%) and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (77%), whereas 54% of the respondents used ondansetron and 7% of the respondents used narcotics. More than half (56%) of the respondents referred patients with concussion for neuropsychological testing from the ED. Of those, nearly half (49%) of the respondents refer their patients to a sports concussion clinic, whereas 5% of the respondents refer their patients to a neuropsychologist. When discussing discharge instructions, 86% of the clinicians recommended follow-up with a primary care physician, 62% of the clinicians recommended follow-up with a sports concussion clinic, and 11% of the clinicians recommend follow-up with a neurologist. Most respondents (70%) have access to a designated sports concussion clinic.

Conclusions Nearly all emergency medicine physicians surveyed care for pediatric patients with concussion, most by using published guidelines. Emergency medicine physicians routinely use medications to treat the symptoms of concussion and often refer patients to primary care physicians as well as designated sports concussion clinics for follow-up.

From the *Department of Emergency Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital; †Department of Emergency Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital; ‡Division of Emergency Medicine, and §Brain Injury Center, Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA; ∥Department of Epidemiology, Colorado School of Public Health, Aurora, CO; ¶Division of Sports Medicine, and #Sports Concussion Clinic, Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston; and **Micheli Center for Sports Injury Prevention, Waltham, MA.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Karen A. Kinnaman, MD, 77 Francis St, Neville House, First Floor, Boston, MA 02114 (e-mail:

© 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.