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Minority Children with Head Trauma Less Likely to Get CT Scans


Minority children who go to the hospital for treatment of blunt head trauma are less likely to have a CT scan than non-minority children, according to a new study. But the reason may not be what many might think, and the report is raising new questions about how to diagnose children with a suspected brain injury.

Case Details

The children studied were admitted to emergency departments after suffering minor head trauma, and who were considered at low or intermediate risk of having a serious brain injury. Serious cases were not included. Medical records for almost 40,000 children under age 18 were examined and broken out into three categories; white non-Hispanic, black non-Hispanic and Hispanic. Of all the patients seen at the various hospitals, about 35 percent were sent for a CT scan to rule out bleeding, bruising or other trauma to the brain tissue. But when broken out by race and ethnicity, the numbers were significantly different. White non-Hispanic children were most likely to have a CT scan. About 30 percent of black non-Hispanic children and 25 percent of Hispanic children were scanned.

Overuse of CT Scans

While this may seem, on the surface, to suggest that there is a double standard in play, the researchers say the actual problem might be the overuse of CT scans in cases where they may not be needed. Treating physicians say parental anxiety and requests for scans drove the number of tests performed on white children higher.

More Information Needed

The researchers says more information should be collected on why doctors let medically irrelevant factors influence their decisions, especially when the medical community is trying to reduce the amount of radiation exposure patients receive. The consensus is that way too many x-rays and scans are being used, and people are receiving unnecessarily large doses of radiation that could have serious medical consequences in the future.

Source: DoctorsLounge.com, “Racial disparity in CT use for children with head trauma,” Aug. 8, 2012


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