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Value of Repeat Head Computed Tomography after Traumatic Brain Injury: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Tea Reljic, Helen Mahony, Benjamin Djulbegovic, Jeff Etchason, Hannah Paxton, Michelle Flores and Ambuj Kumar

Journal of Neurotrauma. January 2014, Vol. 31, No. 1: 78-98


Diagnosis and management of traumatic brain injury (TBI) is crucial to improve patient outcomes. While initial head computed tomography (CT) scan is the optimum tool for quick and accurate detection of intracranial hemorrhage, the guidelines on use of repeat CT differ among institutions. Three systematic reviews have been conducted on a similar topic; none have performed a comprehensive meta-analysis of all studies. Search of Medline, the Cochrane Library database, and Clinicaltrials.gov, and a hand search of conference abstracts and references for all completed studies reporting data on change in management following repeat CT was conducted. Two authors reviewed all studies and extracted data using a standardized form. A proportional meta-analysis was conducted using the random-effects model for outcomes related to any change in management following repeat CT. Any change in management included intracranial intervention, change in intracranial pressure monitoring, and/or administration of drug therapy. Search results yielded 6982 references. In all, 41 studies enrolling 10,501 patients were included. Change in management following repeat CT was reported in 13 prospective and 28 retrospective studies and yielded a pooled proportion of 11.4% (95% confidence interval [CI] 5.9-18.4) and 9.6% (95% CI 6.5-13.2), respectively. In a subgroup analysis of mild TBI patients (Glasgow Coma Scale score 13 to 15), five prospective and nine retrospective studies reported on change in management following repeat CT with the pooled proportion across prospective studies at 2.3% (95% CI 0.3-6.3) and across retrospective studies at 3.9% (95% CI 2.3-5.7), respectively. The evidence suggests that repeat CT in patients with TBI results in a change in management for only a minority of patients. Better designed studies are needed to address the issue of the value of repeat CT in the management of TBI.

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