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A child’s head injury: What to do

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

By: Jeff Ash


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A child falls, hitting his or her head. Is it serious? How can we tell? Do we need to go to the emergency room?

 

Every parent experiences this moment of uncertainty.

 

Dr. E. Corradin Vogel, a fellowship-trained critical care specialist with BayCare Clinic Emergency Physicians, offers some reassurance.

 

“Most child head injuries do not require a CT scan or even a visit to the emergency room,” Vogel says. 

 

Because younger children have what Vogel calls a "top-heavy anatomy,” falls and minor head injuries are common. 

 

But, he says, a child should be examined for a concussion or a head injury when he or she has:

 

  • A head injury involving significant trauma, such as a fall greater than several feet or from a motor vehicle or from a bicycle crash when not wearing a helmet. 
  • A loss of consciousness for more than 5 seconds or a show of abnormal behavior; large, swollen bruises or cuts or swelling of the scalp; a severe headache or vomiting. 

“A trained medical professional will check for a concussion, yet most of these kinds of cases don’t routinely warrant a CT scan,” Vogel says.

 

But if that examination shows signs or symptoms suggesting a skull fracture or brain injury, then a CT scan likely would be ordered, he says.

 

What comes next? After a head injury, a child may require observation and be urged to rest physically and mentally, Vogel says. Depending on the severity of the injury, a follow-up exam may be needed to allow the child to resume playing sports. In some cases, neuropsychological testing may be necessary.

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BayCare Clinic, baycare.net, is the largest physician-owned specialty-care clinic in northeastern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is based in Green Bay, Wisconsin. BayCare Clinic offers expertise in more than 20 specialties, with more than 100 physicians serving in 16 area communities. BayCare Clinic is a joint partner in Aurora BayCare Medical Center, a 167-bed, full-service hospital. Follow BayCare Clinic on Facebook and Twitter.