Is race a factor when doctors decide to order CT scans for kids?

When you were a kid or when your parents were growing up, a bump on the head might not have been a very concerning issue for parents. Kids get hurt easily and they get hurt a lot. And although it may be painful for Joliet parents to witness their child getting injured for the first time, parents of young children also understand that their child’s first injury will not be the last.

However, parents have become increasingly concerned about head injuries over the past few years as more research has revealed that concussions can cause long-term brain damage and other permanent injuries. We have recently seen thousands of former professional football players join concussion lawsuits against the National Football League, and some have passed away from complications from traumatic brain injuries.

Parents and the rest of the population have a better understanding now of how important it is to treat concussions and brain injuries immediately and adequately. And although medical professionals have the skills and responsibility to properly determine how serious or minor a head injury is, a recent study suggests that a child’s race may determine whether or not a doctor decides to order a cranial computed tomography (CT) scan after a child suffers head trauma.

The study was published in the August issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Researchers questioned whether race played a factor in a doctor’s decision to order a CT scan after a child suffered head trauma. Researchers analyzed data from more than 39,700 children who had sought medical treatment within 24 hours of suffering a head injury. All of the patients were under the age of 18.

Doctors ordered CT scans for nearly 35 percent of the children who suffered head trauma. Researchers discovered that race was not a factor when doctors ordered CT scans for patients whose symptoms suggested they were at a higher risk of suffering a traumatic brain injury. However, there was a racial disparity in CT use amongst those whose risks for traumatic brain injuries were lower or moderate. According to researchers, doctors were more likely to order CT scans as a precaution for white, non-Hispanic kids compared to African American kids and Hispanic kids.

Researchers did note that doctors often ordered the CT scans as a precaution because parents had requested the scans, even though doctors determined their children’s injuries were not severe enough to warrant a CT scan.

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

Brain Injuries


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