Article Text

Download PDFPDF
CT or not CT—that is the question. Whether ‘tis better to evaluate clinically and x ray than to undertake a CT head scan!
  1. D M Macgregor1,
  2. L McKie2
  1. 1Accident & Emergency Department, Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital, Aberdeen, Scotland
  2. 2Aberdeen University School of Medicine, Aberdeen, Scotland
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Diana M Macgregor
 Accident & Emergency Department, Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital, Foresterhill, Aberdeen, AB25 2ZG, Scotland;


Objective: To evaluate the usage of computed tomography (CT) head scanning in children at the Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital after the publication of the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines on the management of head injury.

Methods: The Accident and Emergency case records of all children presenting with a head injury over a three month period were reviewed and the number of attendances, radiographs, and CT head scans undertaken were noted. Also noted was the number of additional CT head scans that would have been performed if the NICE guidelines had been rigidly followed.

Results: Five hundred and thirty seven children were included in the study: 67% were boys. Two hundred and ten (39%) had skull radiographs: six demonstrated skull fractures and eight (1.5%) underwent CT head scan, with one positive report of a skull fracture. There were no reports of intracranial abnormalities. Ninety nine (18.4%) were admitted. Strictly applying all the NICE criteria for CT scanning would have resulted in an additional 54 patients being scanned.

Conclusion: Rigid adherence to the NICE guidelines in all children with head injuries would have resulted in an almost eightfold increase in CT head scans performed. None of these children had clinical signs of intracranial injury and would have been exposed to a large amount of ionising radiation. The use of guidelines in practice must always be considered in conjunction with clinical judgement.

  • A&E, Accident and Emergency
  • CT, computed tomography
  • GCS, Glasgow Coma Scale
  • NICE, National Institute of Clinical Excellence
  • RACH, Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital
  • child
  • head
  • injury
  • CT
  • radiograph

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Competing interests: none declared.