To examine whether the presence of clinical guidelines and clinical decision support (CDS) for mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) are associated with lower head computed tomography (CT) use.
We conducted a cross-sectional study of 45 pediatric emergency departments (ED) in the Pediatric Hospital Information System from 2015 through 2019. We included children discharged with mTBI and surveyed ED clinical directors to ascertain the presence and implementation year of clinical guidelines and CDS. The association of clinical guidelines and CDS with CT use was assessed, adjusting for relevant confounders. As secondary outcomes, we evaluated ED length of stay (LOS) and rates of 3-day ED revisits and admissions after revisits.
There were 216,789 children discharged with mTBI, and CT was performed during 20.3% (44,114/216,789) of ED visits. Adjusted hospital-specific CT rates ranged from 11.8% to 34.7% (median 20.5%, IQR:17.3%, 24.3%). Of the 45 EDs, 17 (37.8%) had a clinical guideline, 9 (20.0%) had CDS, and 19 (42.2%) had neither. Compared with EDs with neither a clinical guideline nor CDS, visits to EDs with CDS (aOR 0.52 [0.47, 0.58]) or a clinical guideline (aOR 0.83 [0.78, 0.89]) had lower odds of including a CT for mTBI. ED LOS and revisit rates did not differ based on the presence of a clinical guideline or CDS.
Clinical guidelines for mTBI, and particularly CDS, were associated with lower rates of head CT use without adverse clinical outcomes.