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Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network head injury clinical prediction rules are reliable in practice
  1. Deborah Schonfeld1,2,
  2. Silvia Bressan3,
  3. Liviana Da Dalt3,
  4. Mira N Henien1,
  5. Jill A Winnett1,
  6. Lise E Nigrovic1
  1. 1Division of Emergency Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  2. 2Division of Emergency Medicine, the Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3Department of Woman's and Child's Health, University of Padova, Padova, Italy
  1. Correspondence to Dr Lise E Nigrovic, Division of Emergency Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital, 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA; Lise.nigrovic{at}


Objective The Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network (PECARN) traumatic brain injury (TBI) age-based clinical prediction rules identify children at very low risk of a significant head injury who can safely avoid CT. Our goal was to independently validate these prediction rules.

Design Cross-sectional study.

Setting Two paediatric emergency departments located in USA and in Italy.

Patients All children presenting within 24 h of a head injury with a Glasgow Coma Score of ≥14.

Intervention Assessment of PECARN TBI clinical predictors.

Main outcome measure Clinically important TBI defined as head injury resulting in death, intubation for >24 h, neurosurgery or two or more nights of hospitalisation for the management of head trauma.

Results During the study period, we included 2439 children (91% of eligible patients), of which 959 (39%) were <2 years of age and 1439 (59%) were male. Of the study patients, 373 (15%) had a CT performed, 69 (3%) had traumatic findings on their CT and 19 (0.8%) had a clinically important TBI. None of the children with a clinically important TBI were classified as very low risk by the PECARN TBI prediction rules (overall sensitivity 100%; 95% CI 83.2% to 100%, specificity 55%, 95% CI 52.5% to 56.6%, and negative predictive value 100%, 95% CI 99.6% to 100%).

Conclusions In our external validation, the age-based PECARN TBI prediction rules accurately identified children at very low risk for a clinically significant TBI and can be used to assist CT decision making for children with minor blunt head trauma.

  • Accident & Emergency
  • Epidemiology

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