One-hour CT scan in serious head injury

CHILDREN and adults with suspected head injury showing alarming signs such as seizures, suspected skull fracture, repeated vomiting or loss of consciousness, should be given a CT brain scan within one hour, according to new draft guidelines from NICE.

Others patients with head injuries should be scanned within four to eight hours of their injury, depending on the severity.

Some 1.4 million people attend A&E in England and Wales each year with a recent head injury and up to around 700,000 of them will be children under the age of 15. Head injury is the most common cause of death and disability in people up to the age of 40. Early detection and prompt treatment is vital to save lives and minimise risk of disability, says NICE.

NICE has opened a consultation on its updated draft guideline on head injury recommendations and is inviting views from organisations and groups with a registered interest.

Among other key changes to existing guidelines, NICE recommends that ambulance crews should take patients with a head injury straight to a hospital with resuscitation facilities where doctors and nurses can investigate and treat their injuries. A hospital doctor or specialist who is trained in dealing with sensitive cases should be involved in checking any patient with a head injury presenting to A&E, especially if it's a possible non-accidental injury or a vulnerable person has been injured.

It also recommends that doctors and nurses should give verbal and printed advice to patients, with any type of head injury who are discharged from an emergency department or observation ward, and their families and carers. Any advice should be accessible and appropriate to the patient's age.

The consultation on the draft version of the updated head injury guideline will end on Friday 4 October. Only registered stakeholders such as professional and government organisations, patient and carer groups and companies can comment formally on the consultation. Organisations can register as a stakeholder at any time during the development of a guideline.