Secondary overtriage of pediatric neurosurgical trauma at a Level i pediatric trauma center

Charles E. Mackel, Brent C. Morel, Jesse L. Winer, Hannah G. Park, Megan Sweeney, Robert S. Heller, Leslie Rideout, Ron I. Riesenburger, Steven W. Hwang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE The authors reviewed the transfer requests for isolated pediatric traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) at a Level I/II facility with the goal of identifying clinical and radiographic traits associated with potentially avoidable transfers that could be safely managed in a non.tertiary care setting. METHODS The authors conducted a retrospective study of patients < 18 years of age classified as having TBI and transferred to their Level I tertiary care center over a 12-year period. The primary outcome of interest was identifying potentially avoidable transfers, defined as transfers of patients not requiring any neurosurgical intervention and discharged 1 hospital day after admission. RESULTS Overall, 70.8% of pediatric patients with isolated TBI did not require neurosurgical intervention or monitoring, indicating an avoidable transfer. Potentially avoidable transfers were associated with outside hospital imaging that was negative (86%) or showed isolated, nondisplaced skull fractures (86%) compared to patients with cranial pathology (53.8%, p < 0.001) as well as age . 6 years (81% [negative imaging/isolated, nondisplaced fractures] vs 54% [positive cranial pathology], p < 0.001). The presence of headaches, nonfocal deficits, and loss of consciousness were associated with necessary transfer (p < 0.05). Patients with potentially avoidable transfers underwent frequent repeat CT studies (19.1%) and admissions to the pediatric intensive care unit (55.9%) but at a lower rate than those whose transfers were necessary (p < 0.001). Neurosurgical interventions occurred in 11% of patients with cranial pathology, which accounted for 17.9% of necessary transfers and 5.2% of all transfers. CONCLUSIONS In the authors'f region, potentially up to 70% of interfacility transfers for pediatric brain trauma in the absence of other systemic injuries warranting surgical intervention may not require neurosurgical intervention and could be managed locally. No patients transferred with isolated, nondisplaced skull fractures or negative CT scans required neurosurgical intervention, and 86% were discharged the day after admission. In contrast, 11% of patients with CT scans indicative of cranial pathology required neurosurgical intervention. Age > 6 years, loss of consciousness, and nonfocal deficits were associated with a greater likelihood of needing a transfer. Further studies are required to clarify which patients can be managed at local institutions, but referring centers should practice overcaution given the potential risks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)375-383
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Head injury
  • Pediatric
  • Transfer
  • Trauma
  • Triage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Clinical Neurology


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