From the Journals

‘Fast MRI’ may be option in TBI screening for children



“Fast MRI,” which allows scans to be taken quickly without sedation, is a “reasonable alternative” to screen certain younger children for traumatic brain injury, a new study found.

Over the shoulder shot of senior medical scientist working with CT brain scan images on a personal computer in laboratory. gorodenkoff/Getty Images

The fast MRI option has “the potential to eliminate ionizing radiation exposure for thousands of children each year,” the study authors wrote in Pediatrics. “The ability to complete imaging in about 6 minutes, without the need for anesthesia or sedation, suggests that fast MRI is appropriate even in acute settings, where patient throughput is a priority.”

Daniel M. Lindberg, MD, of the University of Colorado at Denver, Aurora, and associates wrote that children make between 600,000 and 1.6 million ED visits in the United States each year for evaluation of possible traumatic brain injury (TBI). While the incidence of clinically significant injury from TBI is low, 20%-70% of these children are exposed to potentially dangerous radiation as they undergo CT.

The new study focuses on fast MRI. Unlike traditional MRI, it doesn’t require children to remain motionless – typically with the help of sedation – to be scanned.

The researchers performed fast MRI in 223 children aged younger than 6 years (median age, 12.6 months; interquartile range, 4.7-32.6) who sought emergency care at a level 1 pediatric trauma center from 2015 to 2018. They had all had CT scans performed.

CT identified TBI in 111 (50%) of the subjects, while fast MRI identified it in 103 (sensitivity, 92.8%; 95% confidence interval, 86.3-96.8). Fast MRI missed six participants with isolated skull fractures and two with subarachnoid hemorrhage; CT missed five participants with subdural hematomas, parenchymal contusions, and subarachnoid hemorrhage.

While the researchers hoped for a higher sensitivity level, they wrote that “we feel that the benefit of avoiding radiation exposure outweighs the concern for missed injury.”

In a commentary, Brett Burstein, MDCM, PhD, MPH, and Christine Saint-Martin, MDCM, MSc, of Montreal Children’s Hospital and McGill University Health Center, also in Montreal, wrote that the study is “well conducted.”

However, they noted that “the reported feasibility reflects a highly selected cohort of stable patients in whom fast MRI is already likely to succeed. Feasibility results in a more generalizable population of head-injured children cannot be extrapolated.”

And, they added, “fast MRI was unavailable for 65 of 299 consenting, eligible patients because of lack of overnight staffing. Although not included among the outcome definitions of imaging time, this would be an important ‘feasibility’ consideration in most centers.”

Dr. Burstein and Dr. Saint-Martin wrote that “centers migrating toward this modality for neuroimaging children with head injuries should still use clinical judgment and highly sensitive, validated clinical decision rules when determining the need for any neuroimaging for head-injured children.”

The study was funded by the Colorado Traumatic Brain Injury Trust Fund (MindSource) and the Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute. The study and commentary authors reported no relevant financial disclosures.

SOURCES: Lindberg DM et al. Pediatrics. 2019 Sep 18. doi: 10.1542/peds.2019-0419; Burstein B, Saint-Martin C. Pediatrics. 2019 Sep 18. doi: 10.1542/peds.2019-2387.

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