Head Injury

How do we evaluate head injuries in children?

When your child has suffered a head injury, we try to determine if your child's brain has been damaged. Children with a serious brain injury need immediate help to avoid complications such as swelling or bleeding in the brain. Children with mild brain injuries (such as a concussion) may need to be watched closely to ensure that the symptoms do not get worse. Children with concussions also need to follow up with a doctor before resuming sports or other physical activities.

When your child is seen in the emergency department, we get as much information as we can about how your child got injured. We also perform a thorough physical and neurological exam to evaluate your child's brain and thinking. Other tests and treatments are usually not necessary for minor head injuries.

Rarely, a CT scan ("cat scan") of your child's head may be done. A CT scan is a test that uses X-rays to provide pictures of the inside your child's head. However, CT scans do not usually show any useful information unless your child has had a very serious injury. CT scans use radiation that can be harmful in high doses. The amount of radiation can add up over a lifetime so it is best to avoid them in children unless the test is absolutely indicated.