The results of computerised axial tomography (CAT) in 80 children with neurological symptoms and/or signs of less than 3 months' duration are discussed in relation firstly to intracranial pathology and secondly to clinical presentation. 26 children had intracranial space-occupying lesions (tumour, abscess, haemorrhage, infarct). CAT was abnormal in 25 of these and diagnostic in 18. A further 20 children had meningitis or encephalitis, and CAT was abnormal in 12. In contrast with this high rate of scans showing pathology, CAT was abnormal in only 4 of the remaining 34 children who had less definite or no intracranial disease. Analysis of clinical presentation showed that 42 of 69 children presented with persisting neurological signs and of these, 25 had an intracranial space-occupying lesion and 29 had abnormal CAT. Only 5 of 27 children who had symptoms alone or signs lasting less than 24 hours had abnormal CAT, and no intracranial lesion requiring specific treatment was missed. CAT is useful for demonstrating the site, size, and nature of many lesions. The scan may not initially be abnormal in brain stem gliomas and in small subdural collections of fluid.
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