A prospective evaluation of radiologic criteria for head injury patients in a community emergency department

Lloyd K. Richless, Kim English, Michael B. Heller, Jay Rachlin, Philip McClean, Thomas E. Auble

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16 Scopus citations


Several management strategies for radiographic evaluation of head-injury patients have been developed, most are based on retrospective analysis. The study attempted to prospectively evaluate the previously published Masters' criteria defining low-, medium-, and high-yield patients. A community hospital emergency department with a low prevelence of serious head injury was studied, and 1,000 consecutive patients 2 years of age presenting with historical or physical evidence of blunt head trauma were asked to participate; 967 consented. The patients were categorized by staff emergency physicians as low-, moderate-, and high-yield for intracranial injury on the basis of their initial history and physical examination. These categories guided imaging decisions in accordance with the guidelines of Masters. The patients were evaluated 6 weeks later by multiple questionnaire and/or telephone calls to determine whether or not undiagnosed head injuries had been missed. The 967 patients initially evaluated were classified according to their risk of intracranial injury as follows: 886 at low risk, 78 at moderate risk and 3 at high risk. Complete follow-up data were available for 895 of these patients (93%). Of the 895, 71 patients (7.9%) did report receiving follow-up medical care for their head injury; none had evidence of missed intracranial injury requiring intervention. Therefore, it can be interred with a 95% confidence interval that 0.4% or less of patients who were diagnosed as not having intracranial injuries requiring intervention may actually have such injuries. The application of Master's management strategy in low-risk populations permits clinicians to safely reduce the number of radiographs ordered for patients with head injury.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-330
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • Head trauma
  • high-yield criteria
  • radiographic imaging
  • skull radiography


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