Concussion is a commonly encountered diagnosis for pediatric emergency medicine (PEM) providers, yet little is known regarding referral patterns to specialists. Our goal was to assess PEM providers' referral patterns and current usage of standardized evaluation tools.
This study was conducted as cross-sectional survey of PEM providers recruited from the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Emergency Medicine Listserv. Surveys were distributed at 3 time points between December 1, 2020, and February 28, 2021, and included multiple choice, Likert scale, and free text questions. Descriptive statistics and bivariate analyses were used to describe the sample and compare responses between those with variable experience and confidence in concussion management.
In total, 162 of 491 Listserv members (33.0%) completed the survey. The factors most often reported to assist in referral decisions were history of severe (92.6%) or multiple (90.7%) prior concussions, prolonged symptom duration (89.5%), and severity of current symptoms (84.6%). Most providers reported having large experience (63.0%) and confidence (54.9%) in managing concussion. Standardized symptom scales (8.0%), vestibular (11.7%) and balance assessments (13.0%), and prognostic tools (6.8%) were infrequently used. Most (64.2%) providers felt specialty referral was important. More than 80% reported high likelihood to use an accurate risk stratification tool to facilitate referral.
Although most PEM providers reported significant experience and confidence in managing pediatric concussion, standardized assessment tools were infrequently used. Most were likely to use a risk stratification tool to assist in specialty referral. Future studies should assess the ability of targeted referral strategies to improve recovery for concussed youth.