Objectives: To answer concerns related to implementation of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) guideline on the management of head injury by determining the impact on the workload of a district general hospital. Increased computed tomography (CT) was of particular concern (cost, radiation risk, and delivery constraints).
Method: Retrospective audit of all patients attending the hospital’s emergency department with a head injury over a three month period. Any reattendees for the same head injury episode were excluded but the need for CT was recorded. Case notes and electronic records were reviewed to determine whether the CT head or skull radiograph (SXR) was indicated in line with the NICE guideline. The workload was compared with an identical audit performed before the implementation of the NICE guideline.
Results: Of 17 472 patients attending the ED in 2004, 472 had a head injury. CT scan was indicated in 36, a significant increase from 2003 (p<0.001). No SXR was indicated but two were performed, a significant decrease (p<0.001). The admission rate was unaltered. The positive predictive value of NICE was 17.1% compared with 25% (p = not significant) for the authors’ pre-NICE departmental guideline.
Conclusions: This department has seen an increase in CT head requests since the implementation of the NICE guideline. This costs an extra £15 000 per 100 head injuries annually for this department, with an estimated £51.7 million burden for England and Wales. Further evaluation is required as there were only nine brain injuries in this audit population.
- CT, computed tomography
- ED, emergency department
- GCS, Glasgow Coma Scale
- NICE, National Institute for Clinical Excellence
- PPV, positive predictive value
- SXR, skull x ray
- NICE head injury guideline
- CT scan
- skull radiograph
- cost benefit
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Competing interests: none declared
As this was an anonymised audit, ethical approval was not required.