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Ian K. White, Ecaterina Pestereva, Kashif A. Shaikh and Daniel H. Fulkerson

OBJECTIVE

Children with skull fractures are often transferred to hospitals with pediatric neurosurgical capabilities. Historical data suggest that a small percentage of patients with an isolated skull fracture will clinically decline. However, recent papers have suggested that the risk of decline in certain patients is low. There are few data regarding the financial costs associated with transporting patients at low risk for requiring specialty care. In this study, the clinical outcomes and financial costs of transferring of a population of children with isolated skull fractures to a Level 1 pediatric trauma center over a 9-year period were analyzed.

METHODS

A retrospective review of all children treated for head injury at Riley Hospital for Children (Indianapolis, Indiana) between 2005 and 2013 was performed. Patients with a skull fracture were identified based on ICD-9 codes. Patients with intracranial hematoma, brain parenchymal injury, or multisystem trauma were excluded. Children transferred to Riley Hospital from an outside facility were identified. The clinical and radiographic outcomes were recorded. A cost analysis was performed on patients who were transferred with an isolated, linear, nondisplaced skull fracture.

RESULTS

Between 2005 and 2013, a total of 619 pediatric patients with isolated skull fractures were transferred. Of these, 438 (70.8%) patients had a linear, nondisplaced skull fracture. Of these 438 patients, 399 (91.1%) were transferred by ambulance and 39 (8.9%) by helicopter. Based on the current ambulance and helicopter fees, a total of $1,834,727 (an average of $4188.90 per patient) was spent on transfer fees alone. No patient required neurosurgical intervention. All patients recovered with symptomatic treatment; no patient suffered late decline or epilepsy.

CONCLUSIONS

This study found that nearly $2 million was spent solely on transfer fees for 438 pediatric patients with isolated linear skull fractures over a 9-year period. All patients in this study had good clinical outcomes, and none required neurosurgical intervention. Based on these findings, the authors suggest that, in the absence of abuse, most children with isolated, linear, nondisplaced skull fractures do not require transfer to a Level 1 pediatric trauma center. The authors suggest ideas for further study to refine the protocols for determining which patients require transport.

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Andrea G. Scherer, Ian K. White, Kashif A. Shaikh, Jodi L. Smith, Laurie L. Ackerman and Daniel H. Fulkerson

OBJECTIVE

The risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE) from deep venous thrombosis (DVT) is significant in neurosurgical patients. VTE is considered a leading cause of preventable hospital deaths and preventing DVT is a closely monitored quality metric, often tied to accreditation, hospital ratings, and reimbursement. Adult protocols include prophylaxis with anticoagulant medications. Children’s hospitals may adopt adult protocols, although the incidence of DVT and the risk or efficacy of treatment is not well defined. The incidence of DVT in children is likely less than in adults, although there is very little prospectively collected information. Most consider the risk of DVT to be extremely low in children 12 years of age or younger. However, this consideration is based on tradition and retrospective reviews of trauma databases. In this study, the authors prospectively evaluated pediatric patients undergoing a variety of elective neurosurgical procedures and performed Doppler ultrasound studies before and after surgery.

METHODS

A total of 100 patients were prospectively enrolled in this study. All of the patients were between the ages of 1 month and 12 years and were undergoing elective neurosurgical procedures. The 91 patients who completed the protocol received a bilateral lower-extremity Doppler ultrasound examination within 48 hours prior to surgery. Patients did not receive either medical or mechanical DVT prophylaxis during or after surgery. The ultrasound examination was repeated within 72 hours after surgery. An independent, board-certified radiologist evaluated all sonograms. We prospectively collected data, including potential risk factors, details of surgery, and details of the clinical course. All patients were followed clinically for at least 1 year.

RESULTS

There was no clinical or ultrasound evidence of DVT or VTE in any of the 91 patients. There was no clinical evidence of VTE in the 9 patients who did not complete the protocol.

CONCLUSIONS

In this prospective study, no DVTs were found in 91 patients evaluated by ultrasound and 9 patients followed clinically. While the study is underpowered to give a definitive incidence, the data suggest that the risk of DVT and VTE is very low in children undergoing elective neurosurgical procedures. Prophylactic protocols designed for adults may not apply to pediatric patients.

Clinical trial registration no.: NCT02037607 (clinicaltrials.gov)

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Katarzyna Kania, Kashif Ajaz Shaikh, Ian Kainoa White and Laurie L. Ackerman

OBJECTIVE

Concerns about mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) have increased in recent years, and neurosurgical consultation is often requested for patients with radiographic abnormalities or clinical findings suspicious for mTBI. However, to the authors' knowledge, no study has used the Acute Concussion Evaluation (ACE) tool to systematically evaluate the evolution of symptoms in patients with mTBI during neurosurgical follow-up. The goal in this study was to evaluate symptom progression in pediatric patients referred for neurosurgical consultation by using the ACE, as endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

METHODS

The authors performed a retrospective review of records of consecutive pediatric patients who had presented to the emergency department, were diagnosed with possible mTBI, and were referred for neurosurgical consultation. Outpatient follow-up for these patients included serial assessment using the ACE. Data collected included the mechanisms of the patients' injuries, symptoms, follow-up duration, and premorbid conditions that might potentially contribute to protracted recovery.

RESULTS

Of 91 patients identified with mTBI, 58 met the inclusion criteria, and 33 of these had sufficient follow-up data to be included in the study. Mechanisms of injury included sports injury (15 patients), isolated falls (10), and motor vehicle collisions (8). Ages ranged from 5 to 17 years (mean age 11.6 years), and 29 of the 33 patients were male. Six patients had preinjury developmental and/or psychiatric diagnoses such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Seventeen had negative findings on head CT scans. The first follow-up evaluation occurred at a mean of 30 days after injury. The mean number of symptoms reported on the ACE inventory at first follow-up were 3.2; 12 patients were symptom free. Patients with positive head CT findings required longer follow-up: these patients needed 14.59 weeks, versus 7.87 weeks of follow-up in patients with negative findings on head CT scans (p < 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS

The data suggest that patients with mTBI, particularly those with developmental and/or psychiatric comorbidities and concurrent cerebral or extracranial injury, often report symptoms for several weeks after their initial injury. Serial ACE assessment permits systematic identification of patients who are experiencing continued symptoms, leading to appropriate patient management and referral.

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Kashif A. Shaikh, Gregory M. Helbig, Scott A. Shapiro, Mitesh V. Shah, Saad A. Khairi and Eric M. Horn

Object

Organ transplantation for renal, liver, cardiac, and pulmonary failure has become more common in recent years, and patients are living longer as a result of improved organ preservation methods, immunosuppressive regimens, and general posttransplant care. Some of these patients undergo spine fusion surgery following organ transplantation, and there is little available information concerning outcomes. The authors report on their experience with and the outcomes of spine fusion in this rare and unique immunosuppressed patient group.

Methods

Using the Current Procedural Terminology and ICD-9 codes for solid organ transplants, bone marrow transplantations (BMTs), and spine fusion surgeries, the authors searched their patient database between 1997 and 2008. Data points of interest included primary diagnosis, type of organ transplant, immunosuppressant drug therapy, complications from spine surgery, and radiographic analysis of spine fusion. Spine fusion was assessed with CT or radiography at the latest follow-up.

Results

The database search results revealed 5999 patients who underwent heart, lung, liver, kidney, pancreas, intestine, or bone marrow transplant between 1997 and 2008. Eighteen of the 5999 patients underwent a spine fusion surgery while receiving immunosuppressive therapy. Organ transplants included kidney, liver, heart, pancreas, and allogenic BMT. There were 3 deaths unrelated to spine fusion within 1 year of the surgery and 1 death immediately after spine surgery. Graft-versus-host disease developed in 1 patient when prednisone was stopped prior to the spine surgery. Thirteen patients underwent follow-up radiographic imaging at an average of 25 months after spine surgery; 12 demonstrated radiographic fusion.

Conclusions

The results suggest that spine fusion rates are adequate despite immunosuppressive therapy in patients undergoing spinal fusion after transplant procedures. The data also illustrate the high morbidity and mortality rates found in the organ transplant patient population.

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Ian K. White, Kashif A. Shaikh, Reilin J. Moore, Carli L. Bullis, Mairaj T. Sami, Thomas J. Gianaris and Daniel H. Fulkerson

Object

A number of mathematical models predict the risk of future cancer from the ionizing radiation exposure of CT scanning. The predictions are alarming. Some models predict 29,000 future cancers and 14,500 deaths in the US will be directly caused by 1 year's worth of CT scanning. However, there are very few clinical data to justify or refute these claims. Young children are theoretically highly susceptible to the damaging effects of radiation. In this study, the authors examined children who underwent CSF shunt placement before 6 years of age. The authors chose to study shunt-treated patients with the assumption that these patients would undergo future imaging, facilitating surveillance. They chose a study period of 1991–2001 to allow more than 10 years of follow-up data.

Methods

The authors studied 104 consecutive children who underwent CSF shunt placement prior to 6 years of age and who had at least 10 years of follow-up data. Sixty-two of these patients underwent shunt placement prior to 1 year of age. The age at the initial scanning session, the number of future CT scanning sessions, diagnosis, and results of any future studies were recorded. The age-specific radiation dose was calculated for children younger than 1 year. Children younger than 1 year at the time of shunt placement were evaluated separately, based on the assumption that they represented the highest risk cohort. The authors examined all data for any evidence of future leukemia or head/neck tumor (benign or malignant).

Results

These children underwent a total of 1584 CT scanning sessions over a follow-up period of 1622 person-years. A total of 517 scanning sessions were performed prior to 6 years of age, including 260 in the 1st year of life. Children who underwent shunt placement before 1 year of age underwent an average of 16.3 ± 13.5 CT sessions (range 1–41). Children undergoing placement between 1 and 6 years of age received an average of 14.1 ± 12.5 CT studies (range 5–52). There were no subsequent tumors (benign or malignant) or leukemia detected.

Conclusions

Previously published models predict a significant number of future cancers directly caused by CT scanning. However, there are very few published clinical data. In the authors' study, zero future radiation-induced malignancies were detected after routine CT scanning in a high-risk group. While the authors do not consider their single-institution study adequate to define the actual risk, their data suggest that the overall risk is low. The authors hope this study encourages future collaborative efforts to define the actual risk to patients.