Mild traumatic brain injury: Improving quality of care in the paediatric emergency department setting


Dr Bridget Kool, Section of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Population Health, The University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland 1142, New Zealand. Fax: +64 9 373 503; email:


Aim:  Traumatic brain injury (TBI) in childhood can impose a significant threat to life and longer-term disability. This study investigated the extent to which the documentation of key indicators of healthcare quality in the emergency department (ED) setting was consistent with clinical guidelines for the management of children with mild TBI (MTBI).

Methods:  The clinical records of a random sample of 60 children (stratified by ethnicity and age group), who were seen and discharged from a large metropolitan paediatric hospital ED following a head injury, were systematically reviewed to examine the processes of care and follow-up.

Results:  Based on the documentation in clinical records, processes designed to identify and manage potentially life-threatening acute complications (e.g. computed tomography scanning to identify intracranial haemorrhage) were consistent with best practice standards. However gaps existed between current and best practice for some aspects of care that could minimise risks of longer-term disability from MTBI. For example, relevant clinical criteria were well documented, but this information did not appear to be applied systematically to identify and to follow up children with definite or possible MTBI.

Conclusion:  The apparent absence of a systematic approach to the diagnosis and follow-up of MTBI in children presenting to ED suggests a missed opportunity to minimise the risk of disability following these injuries. Greater attention to an integrated care pathway that improves the identification, documentation, and follow-up of children with MTBI presenting to ED is required.