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Utility of Neuroimaging in Children Presenting to a Pediatric Emergency Department With Ataxia

Luetje, Maureen, DO*; Kannikeswaran, Nirupama, MD*; Arora, Rajan, MD*; Wang, Bo, MPH, PhD; Farooqi, Ahmad, MPhil, MSC, MA; Sivaswamy, Lalitha, MD*

doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000001823
Original Articles

Objectives The aim of this study was to evaluate the utility of neuroimaging in children who present to the pediatric emergency department with acute-/subacute-onset ataxia. Neuroimaging is performed in many children with ataxia to rule out serious intracranial pathology. There is, however, limited evidence to support such practice.

Methods This was a retrospective review of electronic medical records of children who presented to the emergency department with ataxia between 2007 and 2013. Patient demographics, historical features, physical examination findings, laboratory results, and neuroimaging results were collected. Neuroimaging studies that were classified as abnormal by a neuroradiologist were further reviewed and classified by the study neurologist as clinically significant or not.

Results The records of 141 subjects were analyzed. The most common causes of ataxia were infectious/postinfectious (36.2%) and ingestion (15.6%). Neuroimaging was performed in 104 children (73.8%). Neuroimaging was abnormal in 63 children (60.6%). However, these abnormalities were clinically significant in only 14 children (13.5%). Focal neurological findings were noted in 12 of 14 children (85.7%) with clinically significant neuroimaging.

Conclusions Clinically significant neuroimaging was noted in a minority of children who presented with acute/subacute ataxia. The majority of patients with clinically significant neuroimaging had focal neurological findings on examination. Neuroimaging may not be required in all children presenting to the ED with acute ataxia, but further large-scale studies are needed to validate these findings and identify a subset of patients with ataxia in whom imaging can be deferred.

From the *Children's Hospital of Michigan and

The Integrative Biosciences Center and

Department of Pediatrics, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: Maureen Luetje, DO, Pediatric Emergency Department, Children's Hospital of Michigan, 3901 Beaubien Blvd, Detroit, MI 48201 (e-mail:

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