Pediatric Mild Traumatic Brain Injury: Who Can Be Managed at a Non-pediatric Trauma Center Hospital? A Systematic Review of the Literature

Olivia A. Keane, Mauricio A. Escobar, Lucas P. Neff, Ian C. Mitchell, Joshua J. Chern, Matthew T. Santore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Pediatric traumatic brain injury (TBI) affects about 475,000 children in the United States annually. Studies from the 1990s showed worse mortality in pediatric TBI patients not transferred to a pediatric trauma center (PTC), but did not examine mild pediatric TBI. Evidence-based guidelines used to identify children with clinically insignificant TBI who do not require head CT were developed by the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network (PECARN). However, which patients can be safely observed at a non-PTC is not directly addressed. Methods: A systematic review of the literature was conducted, focusing on management of pediatric TBI and transfer decisions from 1990 to 2020. Results: Pediatric TBI patients make up a great majority of preventable transfers and admissions, and comprise a significant portion of avoidable costs to the health care system. Majority of mild TBI patients admitted to a PTC following transfer do not require ICU care, surgical intervention, or additional imaging. Studies have shown that as high as 83% of mild pediatric TBI patients are discharged within 24 hrs. Conclusions: An evidence-based clinical practice algorithm was derived through synthesis of the data reviewed to guide transfer decision. The papers discussed in our systematic review largely concluded that transfer and admission was unnecessary and costly in pediatric patients with mild TBI who met the following criteria: blunt, no concern for NAT, low risk on PECARN assessment, or intermediate risk on PECARN with negative imaging or imaging with either isolated, nondisplaced skull fractures without ICH and/or EDH, or SDH <0.3 cm with no midline shift.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)447-454
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Surgeon
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022


  • acute care
  • critical care
  • pediatric surgery
  • trauma
  • trauma acute care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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