and should base management and prognostication on clinical decision-making tools and symptom rating scales, according to new practice guidelines issued by a working group of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (JAMA Pediatrics. 2018 Sep 4.
The guidelines were released simultaneously with a systematic review, conducted by the same authors, of the existing literature regarding pediatric mTBI (JAMA Pediatrics 2018 Sep 4.). As the evaluators sorted through the literature to find high-quality studies for this population, the funnel rapidly narrowed: From an initial pool of over 15,000 studies conducted between 1990 and 2015, findings from just 75 studies were eventually included in the systematic review.
The review’s findings formed the basis for the guidelines and allowed Angela Lumba-Brown, MD, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Stanford (Calif.) University, and her coauthors to ascribe a level of confidence in the inference from study data for a given recommendation. Recommendations also are categorized by strength and accordingly indicate that clinicians “should” or “may” follow them. Exceptions are carved out for practices, such as the use of hypertonic 3% saline solution for acute headache in the ED, that should not be used outside research settings.
In the end, the guidelines cover 19 main topics, sorted into guidance regarding the diagnosis, prognosis, and management and treatment of mTBI in children.
The recommendations regarding mTBI diagnosis center around determining which children are at risk for significant intracranial injury (ICI). The guidelines recommend, with moderate confidence, that clinicians usually should not obtain a head CT for children with mTBI. Validated clinical decision rules should be used for risk stratification to determine which children can safely avoid imaging and which children should be considered for head CT, wrote Dr. Lumba-Brown and her coauthors. Magnetic resonance imaging is not recommended for initial evaluation of mTBI, nor should skull radiographs be ordered in the absence of clinical suspicion for skull fracture.
From the systematic review, Dr. Lumba-Brown and her colleagues found that several risk factors taken together may mean that significant ICI is more likely. These include patient age younger than 2 years; any vomiting, loss of consciousness, or amnesia; a severe mechanism of injury, severe or worsening headache, or nonfrontal scalp hematoma; a Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score of less than 15; and clinical suspicion for skull fracture. Clinicians should give consideration to the risks of ionizing radiation to the head, and balance this against their assessment of risk for severe – and perhaps actionable – injury.
A validated symptom rating scale, used in an age-appropriate way, should be used as part of the evaluation of children with mTBI. For children aged 6 and older, theis an appropriate tool within 2 days after injury, while the as part of computerized neurocognitive testing can differentiate which high school athletes have mTBI when used within 4 days of injury, according to the guidelines, which also identify other validated symptom rating scales.
The guidelines authors recommend, with high confidence, that serum biomarkers should not be used outside of research settings in the diagnosis of mTBI in children at present.