Every head injury is different, so there’s no step-by-step treatment plan that we can use on every patient that shows up with a head injury. That said, analysts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at thousands of cases of mild pediatric head injuries to try and come up with some general guidelines for treating these types of injuries. Earlier this week, they released their list of recommendations. We’re going to share the CDC’s recommendations and discuss them below.
CDC’s Head Injury Recommendations
Here’s what the CDC recommends when it comes to treating mild pediatric head injuries:
- Doctors should not routinely use imaging tests to look for signs of a concussion.
- Doctors should use validated, age-appropriate symptom scales to diagnose mild TBI.
- Assess evidence-based risk factors for prolonged recovery.
- Provide patients or parents with instructions on return to activity customized to their symptoms.
- Counsel patients to return gradually to non-sports activities after no more than 2-3 days of rest.
Here’s a quick look at why the CDC put forth these five recommendations. To check out the full recommendations, click here.
1. Don’t Rely on Imaging Tests – For mild forms of head injuries, doctors can get a better understanding of the extent of the injury and treatment protocols but opting for a physical exam and listening to symptom descriptions. Obviously if a more serious head injury is feared, blood tests or imaging exams will be recommended, but for minor cases, patients can save money and get a clear diagnosis if doctors rely on their ability to assess physical symptoms.
2. Rely on Symptoms To Diagnose – Similar to the above point, using age-appropriate symptom diagnostic techniques can often be the best source of information from which to guide treatment. Doctors will look for different symptoms based on the child’s age, from ability to focus and memory, to cognitive reasoning and behavior changes.
3. Assess Risk Factors – Given the symptoms that are prevalent and the data on similar cases, doctors should chart a course for recovery for the child and caregivers.
4. Explain Recovery To Parents – Doctors should provide a recommendation on returning to certain activities, like school or athletics. They should also explain to parents what signs and symptoms to look for that suggests their child is or isn’t ready to return to these activities.
5. Limit Rest – Rest is good for the first 24-48 hours, but in cases of minor head trauma, research has actually shown that patients have better healing and decreased symptoms if they begin to amp up their physical activity within a couple days of the original injury. Laying in bed for a week is going to inhibit your healing, but listen to your doctor’s instructions for your child’s specific injury.
We’ll follow these guidelines and more to give you the best care possible, so if your child has suffered a head injury, reach out to Dr. Chang’s office today!