The aim of this study was to evaluate cervical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) practices and cervical spine injuries among young children with non–motor vehicle crash (MVC)–associated traumatic brain injury (TBI).
We performed a retrospective study of a stratified, systematic random sample of 328 children younger than 2 years with non-MVC-associated TBI at 4 urban children's hospitals from 2008 to 2012. We defined TBI etiology as accidental, indeterminate, or abuse. We reported the proportion, by etiology, who underwent cervical MRI or CT, and had cervical abnormalities identified.
Of children with non-MVC-associated TBI, 39.4% had abusive head trauma (AHT), 52.2% had accidental TBI, and in 8.4% the etiology was indeterminate. Advanced cervical imaging (CT and/or MRI) was obtained in 19.1% of all children with TBI, with 9.3% undergoing MRI and 11.7% undergoing CT. Cervical MRI or CT was performed in 30.9% of children with AHT, in 11.7% of accidental TBI, and in 10.7% of indeterminate-cause TBI. Among children imaged by MRI or CT, abnormal cervical findings were found in 22.1%, including 31.3% of children with AHT, 7.1% of children with accidental TBI, and 0% of children with indeterminate-cause TBI. Children with more severe head injuries who underwent cervical imaging were more likely to have cervical injuries.
Abusive head trauma victims appear to be at increased risk of cervical injuries. Prospective studies are needed to define the risk of cervical injury in children with TBI concerning for AHT and to inform development of imaging guidelines.