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Minority kids less likely to get CT scans for some head trauma

Posted on in Catastrophic Injuries

Many times after a car accident, it can be hard to detect all of a patient's injuries. In some cases accident victims come to the emergency room feeling little to no pain. But that doesn't mean problems can't crop up later, particularly in the case of brain injuries. Because these injuries can be difficult to pinpoint, many patients are given cranial computed tomography, or CT scans.

How do emergency room doctors determine whether a patient should receive a CT scan? That was one of the many questions raised in a study by a professor from the University of California Davis. The study, which was published this month in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, found that children with minor blunt head trauma are much less likely to receive a CT scan during an emergency room visit than nonminority children with the same risk.

Minor head trauma carries a low to intermediate risk of "clinically important" traumatic brain injury, according to the study, which examined the connection between race and CT use at hospitals using data from almost 40,000 cases of children who were seen within 24 hours of their injury. The children were white non-Hispanic, black-non-Hispanic or Hispanic. The severity of the children's injuries were described using a previously validated means of classifying each child's risk of TBI.

Of all the children examined, 34.7 percent received a cranial CT scan. For children with a higher risk of TBI, the odds of receiving a scan didn't differ by race or ethnicity. But for those who had an intermediate or lower risk, minority children were significantly less likely to undergo a CT scan. But why? Many physicians said parents' anxiety and requests to do a scan influenced the decision, regardless of the risk of TBI. In other words, many times white children received a scan when it may not have been necessary, the study authors wrote.

The study's findings don't get into specifics of the results of the CT scans or how they were paid for, two factors that might be of great interest to victims of accidents caused by someone else. When the ability to pay for extra diagnosis and treatment determines a patient's care, accident victims risk not getting the treatment they need. It's just one reason accident victims must actively pursue compensation for their medical costs if they're injured due to someone else's negligence.

Source: DoctorsLounge, "Racial Disparity in CT Use for Children With Head Trauma," Aug. 8, 2012

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