Low rate of delayed deterioration requiring surgical treatment in patients transferred to a tertiary care center for mild traumatic brain injury.
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Patients with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) only rarely need neurosurgical intervention; however, there is a subset of patients whose condition will deteriorate. Given the high resource utilization required for interhospital transfer and the relative infrequency of the need for intervention, this study was undertaken to determine how often patients who were transferred required intervention and if there were factors that could predict that need.The authors performed a retrospective review of cases involving patients who were transferred to the University of New Mexico Level 1 trauma center for evaluation of mTBI between January 2005 and December 2009. Information including demographic data, lesion type, need for neurosurgical intervention, and short-term outcome was recorded.During the 4-year study period, 292 patients (age range newborn to 92 years) were transferred for evaluation of mTBI. Of these 292 patients, 182 (62.3%) had an acute traumatic finding of some kind; 110 (60.4%) of these had a follow-up CT to evaluate progression, whereas 60 (33.0%) did not require a follow-up CT. In 15 cases (5.1% overall), the patients were taken immediately to the operating room (either before or after the first CT). Only 4 patients (1.5% overall) had either clinical or radiographic deterioration requiring delayed surgical intervention after the second CT scan. Epidural hematoma (EDH) and subdural hematoma (SDH) were both found to be significantly associated with the need for surgery (OR 29.5 for EDH, 95% CI 6.6-131.8; OR 9.7 for SDH, 95% CI 2.4-39.1). There were no in-hospital deaths in the series, and 97% of patients were discharged with a Glasgow Coma Scale score of 15.Most patients who are transferred with mTBI who need neurosurgical intervention have a surgical lesion initially. Only a very small percentage will have a delayed deterioration requiring surgery, with EDH and SDH being more concerning lesions. In most cases of mTBI, triage can be performed by a neurosurgeon and the patient can be observed without interhospital transfer.