Erik P. Hess MD MSc Professor and Vice Chair for Research Department of Emergency Medicine UAB Medicine | The University of Alabama at Birmingham Birmingham Alabama 35249

“Head CT Choice” Educates Parents of Children with Mild Head Injury Interview with:

Erik P. Hess MD MSc Professor and Vice Chair for Research Department of Emergency Medicine UAB Medicine | The University of Alabama at Birmingham Birmingham Alabama 35249

Dr. Hess

Erik P. Hess MD MSc
Professor and Vice Chair for Research
Department of Emergency Medicine
UAB Medicine
he University of Alabama at Birmingham
Birmingham Alabama 35249 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: 450,000 children present to U.S emergency departments each year for evaluation of head trauma.  Physicians obtain head computed tomography (CT) scans in 37%-50% of these patients, with less than 10% showing evidence of traumatic brain injury and only 0.2% that require neurosurgical treatment.

In order to avoid unnecessary CT scans and to limit radiation exposure, the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network (PECARN) developed clinical prediction rules that consist of 6 readily available factors that can be assessed from the history and physical examination.  If none of these risk factors are present, a CT scan is not indicated.

If either of 2 high risk factors such as signs of a skull fracture are present, CT scanning is indicated.

If 1 or 2 non-high risk factors are present, then either CT scanning or observation are recommended, depending on considerations such as parental preference, clinician experience and/or symptom progression.

In this study we designed a parent decision aid, “Head CT Choice” to educate the parent about the difference between a concussion – which does not show up on a CT scan – and a more serious brain injury causing bleeding in or around the brain.  The decision aid also shows parents their child’s risk for a serious brain injury – less than 1% risk in the majority of patients in our trial – what to observe their child at home for should they opt not to obtain a CT scan, and the advantages and disadvantages of CT scanning versus home observation.

In our trial, we did not observe a difference in the rate of head CT scans obtained in the ED but did find that parents who were engaged in shared decision-making using Head CT Choice were more knowledgeable about their child’s risk for serious brain injury, has less difficulty making the decision because they were clearer about the advantages and disadvantages of the diagnostic options, and were more involved in decision-making by their physician.  Parents also less frequently sought additional testing for their child within 1 week of the emergency department visit. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Empowering parents to participate in medical decisions for children with head injury does not result in more requests for testing and treatment but improves parents’ knowledge and comfort in managing symptoms related to their child’s head injury after the ED visit. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work? 

Response: Consistently engaging parents of children with minor head injury in shared decision-making using tools such as the Head CT Choice decision aid has potential to improve parent’s knowledge and engagement in care decisions for their child and decrease healthcare use after the emergency department visit. Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Response: The trial was funded by the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute.  The sponsor had no role in the design, conduct or reporting of the research or in the decision to submit the results for publication.


Hess EP, Homme JL, Kharbanda AB, et al. Effect of the Head Computed Tomography Choice Decision Aid in Parents of Children With Minor Head TraumaA Cluster Randomized TrialJAMA Network Open.2018;1(5):e182430. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.2430

[wysija_form id=”3″]






The information on is provided for educational purposes only, and is in no way intended to diagnose, cure, or treat any medical or other condition. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health and ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. In addition to all other limitations and disclaimers in this agreement, service provider and its third party providers disclaim any liability or loss in connection with the content provided on this website.


Last Updated on September 24, 2018 by Marie Benz MD FAAD