Original Research

Is computed tomography of the brain necessary in patients with clinically suspected depressed skull fracture and no focal neurological deficit?

J A Rabie, S Otto, A J le Roux
South African Journal of Radiology | Vol 14, No 2 | a422 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajr.v14i2.422 | © 2010 J A Rabie, S Otto, A J le Roux | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 February 2010 | Published: 07 June 2010

About the author(s)

J A Rabie, University of the Free State, South Africa
S Otto, University of the Free State, South Africa
A J le Roux, University of the Free State, South Africa

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Abstract

Objective. The objective of the study was to determine whether computed tomography (CT) of the brain is necessary in all head trauma patients with clinically suspected depressed skull fractures, Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) scores of 13 and above, and no focal neurological deficits.

Design. A retrospective descriptive analysis was undertaken of patients of all ages who presented at the trauma unit of the Pelonomi Hospital Complex in Bloemfontein with GCS of 13 to 15, depressed skull fracture, no clinical focal neurological deficit, and who also underwent CT of the brain. Data were obtained from patients' files, and radiological reports and were analysed by the Department of Statistics, University of the Free State.

Results. One hundred and thirty-one patients were included in the study, of whom 56 (42.7%) were found to have substantial intracranial pathology as determined by CT. Twenty-four (18.3%) of these patients had a GCS of 13, of whom 6 (25%) had normal CT scans and 18 (75%) intracranial pathology. Twenty-eight (21.37%) of the 56 patients with intracranial pathology had a GCS of 14, of whom 11 (39.3%) had normal CT scans and 17 (60.7%) intracranial pathology. A GCS of 15 was determined in 79 (60.3%) of the 131 patients, of whom 58 (73.4%) had normal CT scans and 21 (26.6%) intracranial pathology.

Conclusion. Based on our findings, CT imaging of the brain in patients with a clinically suspected depressed skull fracture despite any clinical neurological deficit and a GCS of 13 or more is warranted in our setting. The likelihood of injury on CT correlated inversely with the GCS.

Keywords

CT scan; Computed tomography; Minor head injury

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