Identifying patients with mild traumatic intracranial hemorrhage at low risk of decompensation who are safe for ED observation

Peter Burton Pruitt*, Joshua Penn, David Peak, Pierre Borczuk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Background Patients with traumatic intracranial hemorrhage and mild traumatic brain injury (mTIH) receive broadly variable care which often includes transfer to a trauma center, neurosurgery consultation and ICU admission. However, there may be a low risk cohort of patients who can be managed without utilizing such significant resources. Objective Describe mTIH patients who are at low risk of clinical or radiographic decompensation and can be safely managed in an ED observation unit (EDOU). Methods Retrospective evaluation of patients age ≥ 16, GCS ≥ 13 with ICH on CT. Primary outcomes included clinical/neurologic deterioration, CT worsening or need for neurosurgery. Results 1185 consecutive patients were studied. 814 were admitted and 371 observed patients (OP) were monitored in the EDOU or discharged from the ED after a period of observation. None of the OP deteriorated clinically. 299 OP (81%) had a single lesion on CT; 72 had mixed lesions. 120 patients had isolated subarachnoid hemorrhage (iSAH) and they did uniformly well. Of the 119 OP who had subdural hematoma (SDH), 6 had worsening CT scans and 3 underwent burr hole drainage procedures as inpatients due to persistent SDH without new deficit. Of the 39 OP who had cerebral contusions, 3 had worsening CT scans and one required NSG admission. No patient returned to the ED with a complication. Follow-up was obtained on 81% of OP. 2 patients with SDH required burr hole procedure > 2 weeks after discharge. Conclusions Patients with mTIH, particularly those with iSAH, have very low rates of clinical or radiographic deterioration and may be safe for monitoring in an emergency department observation unit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)255-259
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017


  • Intraparenchymal hemorrhage
  • Observation medicine
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage
  • Subdural hematoma
  • Traumatic intracranial hemorrhage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine

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