PECARN Pediatric Head Injury/Trauma Algorithm
The PECARN Pediatric Head Injury Prediction Rule is a well-validated clinical decision aid that allows physicians to safely rule out the presence of clinically important traumatic brain injuries, including those that would require neurosurgical intervention among pediatric head injury patients who meet its criteria without the need for CT imaging.
- The PECARN consortium produced the largest study to date aiming to derive and validate clinical prediction rules to identify children with very low risk of Clinically Important TBI (ciTBI) following blunt head trauma who would not require imaging.
- ciTBI (see “More Info” section for outcome definitions) was chosen as the primary outcome because it is clinically-driven and accounts for the imperfect test characteristics of CT.
- In the less than 2 year old group, the rule was 100% sensitive.
- In the greater than 2 year old group, the rule had 96.8% sensitivity.
- In those under 2 with GCS=14, AMS, or palpable skull fracture, risk was 4.4% and CT imaging is recommended.
- Risk with any of the remaining predictors was 0.9%, and less than 0.02% with no predictors.
- In those over 2 with GCS=14, AMS, or signs of basilar skull fracture, risk was 4.3% and CT imaging is recommended.
- Risk with any of the remaining 4 predictors was 0.9%, and less than 0.05% with no predictors.
- PECARN prediction rule outperformed both the CHALICE and the CATCH clinical decision aids in external validation studies.
Points to keep in mind:
- Although the largest trial of its kind, the PECARN study had low rates of TBI on Head CT (5.2%) and even lower rates of ciTBI (0.9%) – this suggests overall TBI in children is rare!
- Head CTs were obtained in approximately 35% of patients, lower than the average estimate of 50%!
- Unlike in the adult population, CT imaging of the head in pediatric patients is believed to be associated with an increased risk of lethal malignancy over the life of the patient, with the risk decreasing with age. The estimated risk of lethal malignancy from a head CT in a 1 year is 1 in 1000-1500 and decreases to 1 in 5000 in a patient who is 10 years old.
- There are over 600,000 emergency department visits annually in the US for head trauma among patients aged 18 years or younger.
- Applying the PECARN Pediatric Head Injury Prediction Rule would allow providers to determine which pediatric patients they can safely discharge without obtaining a head CT.