Rehabilitation services for children after severe acquired brain injury

Survival with brain injury is an outcome of severe illness that may be becoming more common. Provision for children in this situation has received little attention | Archives of Disease in Childhood

Objectives: We sought to estimate rates of severe paediatric acquired brain injury (ABI) requiring rehabilitation and to describe current provision of services for these children in the UK.

Methods: This study conducted an analysis of Hospital Episode Statistics data between April 2003 and March 2012, supplemented by a UK provider survey completed in 2015. A probable severe ABI requiring rehabilitation (PSABIR) event was inferred from the co-occurrence of a medical condition likely to cause ABI (such as meningitis) and a prolonged inpatient stay (>=28 days).

Results: During the period studied, 4508 children aged 1–18 years in England had PSABIRs. Trauma was the most common cause (30%) followed by brain tumours (19%) and anoxia (18.3%). An excess in older males was attributable to trauma. We estimate the incidence of PSABIR to be at least 2.93 (95%CI 2.62 to 3.26) per 100 000 young people (1–18 years) pa. The provider survey confirmed marked geographic variability in the organisation of services in the UK.

Conclusions: There are at least 350 PSABIR events in children in the UK annually, a health problem of similar magnitude to that of cerebral palsy. Service provision for this population varies widely around the UK, in contrast with the nationally coordinated approach to paediatric intensive care and major trauma provision.

Full reference: Hayes, L. et al. (2017) Requirements for and current provision of rehabilitation services for children after severe acquired brain injury in the UK: a population-based study. Archives of Disease in Childhood. Vol. 102 (no. 09) pp. 813-820.

Blood test shows promise in detecting abusive head trauma in infants

Researchers have developed and refined a blood test that could help clinicians identify infants who may have had bleeding of the brain as a result of abusive head trauma, sometimes referred to as shaken baby syndrome | ScienceDaily

The serum-based test, which needs to be validated in a larger population and receive regulatory approval before being used in clinical practice, would be the first of its kind to be used to detect acute intracranial hemorrhage, or bleeding of the brain. Infants who test positive would then have further evaluation via brain imaging to determine the source of the bleeding.

However, approximately 30 percent of AHT diagnoses are missed when caretakers provide inaccurate histories or when infants have nonspecific symptoms such as vomiting or fussiness. Missed diagnoses can be catastrophic as AHT can lead to permanent brain damage and even death.

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Selecting children for head CT following head injury

Kemp, A. et al. Archives of Disease in Childhood.  Published Online: 22 July 2016


Objective: Indicators for head CT scan defined by the 2007 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines were analysed to identify CT uptake, influential variables and yield.


Main outcome measures: Number of children who had CT, extent to which NICE guidelines were followed and diagnostic yield.

Results: Data on 5700 children were returned by 90% of eligible hospitals, 84% of whom were admitted to a general hospital. CT scans were performed on 30.4% of children (1734), with a higher diagnostic yield in infants (56.5% (144/255)) than children aged 1 to 14 years (26.5% (391/1476)). Overall, only 40.4% (984 of 2437 children) fulfilling at least one of the four NICE criteria for CT actually underwent one. These children were much less likely to receive CT if admitted to a general hospital than to a specialist centre (OR 0.52 (95% CI 0.45 to 0.59)); there was considerable variation between healthcare regions. When indicated, children >3 years were much more likely to have CT than those <3 years (OR 2.35 (95% CI 2.08 to 2.65)).

Conclusion: Compliance with guidelines and diagnostic yield was variable across age groups, the type of hospital and region where children were admitted. With this pattern of clinical practice the risks of both missing intracranial injury and overuse of CT are considerable.

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Acceptance of Shaken Baby Syndrome and Abusive Head Trauma as Medical Diagnoses

Narang, S.K. et al. The Journal of Pediatrics. Published online: 22 July 2016

Objective: To assess the current general acceptance within the medical community of shaken baby syndrome (SBS), abusive head trauma (AHT), and several alternative explanations for findings commonly seen in abused children.

Study design: This was a survey of physicians frequently involved in the evaluation of injured children at 10 leading children’s hospitals. Physicians were asked to estimate the likelihood that subdural hematoma, severe retinal hemorrhages, and coma or death would result from several proposed mechanisms.

Results: Of the 1378 physicians surveyed, 682 (49.5%) responded, and 628 were included in the final sample. A large majority of respondents felt that shaking with or without impact would be likely or highly likely to result in subdural hematoma, severe retinal hemorrhages, and coma or death, and that none of the alternative theories except motor vehicle collision would result in these 3 findings. SBS and AHT were comsidered valid diagnoses by 88% and 93% of the respondents, respectively.

Conclusions: Our empirical data confirm that SBS and AHT are still generally accepted by physicians who frequently encounter suspected child abuse cases, and are considered likely sources of subdural hematoma, severe retinal hemorrhages, and coma or death in young children. Other than a high-velocity motor vehicle collision, no alternative theories of causation for these findings are generally accepted.

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Epidemiology of children with head injury: a national overview

Trefan, L. et al. Archives of Disease in Childhood. 2016. 101:527-532

Background The National Confidential Enquiry describes the epidemiology of children admitted to hospital with head injury.

Method Children (<15 years old) who died or were admitted for >4 h with head injury were identified from 216 UK hospitals (1 September 2009 to 28 February 2010). Data were collected using standard proformas and entered on to a database. A descriptive analysis of the causal mechanisms, child demographics, neurological impairment, CT findings, and outcome at 72 h are provided.

Results Details of 5700 children, median age 4 years (range 0–14.9 years), were analysed; 1093 (19.2%) were <1 year old, 3500 (61.4%) were boys. There was a significant association of head injury with social deprivation 39.7/100 000 (95% CI 37.0 to 42.6) in the least deprived first quintile vs. 55.1 (95% CI 52.1 to 58.2) in the most deprived fifth quintile (p<0.01). Twenty-four children died (0.4%). Most children were admitted for one night or less; 4522 (79%) had a Glasgow Coma Scale score of 15 or were Alert (on AVPU (Alert, Voice, Pain, Unresponsive)). The most common causes of head injury were falls (3537 (62.1%); children <5 years), sports-related incidents (783 (13.7%); median age 12.4 years), or motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) (401 (7.1%); primary-school-aged children). CT scans were performed in 1734 (30.4%) children; 536 (30.9%) were abnormal (skull fracture and/or intracranial injury or abnormality): 269 (7.6%) were falls, 82 (10.5%) sports related and 100 (25%). A total of 357 (6.2%) children were referred to social care because of child protection concerns (median age 9 months (range 0–14.9 years)).

Conclusions The data described highlight priorities for targeted age-specific head injury prevention and have the potential to provide a baseline to evaluate the effects of regional trauma networks (2012) and National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) head injury guidelines (2014), which were revised after the study was completed.

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Biomechanical characteristics of head injuries from falls in children younger than 48 months

Hughes, J. et al. Arch Dis Child 2016;101:310-315

Background: A fall-height threshold is important when evaluating the likelihood of structural head injury or abusive head trauma. This study investigates witnessed falls to correlate the fall characteristics with the extent of injury.

Method: Case–control study of children aged ≤48 months who attended one hospital following a fall from <3 m (10 ft), comparing cases who sustained a skull fracture or intracranial injury (ICI) with controls, who had minor head injuries. Characteristics included: the mechanism of injury, surface of impact, site of impact to the head and fall height.

Results Forty-seven children had a skull fracture or ICI, while 416 children had minor head injuries. The mean fall height for minor head injuries was significantly lower than that causing skull fracture/ICI (p<0.001). No skull fracture/ICI was recorded in children who fell <0.6 m (2 ft), based on the height of the head centre of gravity. Skull fractures/ICI were more likely in children aged ≤12 months (p<0.001) from impacts to the temporal/parietal or occipital region (p<0.001), impacts onto wood (p=0.004) and falls from a carer’s arms, particularly when on stairs (p<0.001). No significant difference was reported between the mean fall heights of children who had a simple skull fracture (n=17) versus those who had a complex fracture or ICI (n=30).

Conclusions: An infant is more likely to sustain a skull fracture/ICI from a fall above a 0.6 m (2 ft) threshold, based on the height of the head centre of gravity, or with a parietal/temporal or occipital impact. These variables should be recorded when evaluating the likelihood of skull fracture/ICI.

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