Management of mild traumatic brain injury at the emergency department and hospital admission in Europe: A survey of 71 neurotrauma centers participating in the CENTER-TBI study

Foks KA, Cnossen MC, Dippel DWJ, Maas A, Menon D, van der Naalt J, Steyerberg EW, Lingsma H, Polinder S
Year of publication
Journal of Neurotrauma

Previous studies have indicated that there is no consensus about management of mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) at the emergency department (ED) and during hospital admission. We aim to study variability between management policies for TBI patients at the ED and hospital ward across Europe. Centers participating in the Collaborative European NeuroTrauma Effectiveness Research in Traumatic Brain Injury (CENTER-TBI) study received questionnaires about different phases of TBI care. These questionnaires included 71 questions about TBI management at the ED and at the hospital ward. We found differences in how centers defined mTBI. For example, 40 centers (59%) defined mTBI as a Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score between 13-15 and 26 (38%) as a GCS score between 14-15. At the ED various guidelines for the use of head CT in mTBI patients were used; 32 centers (49%) used national guidelines, 10 centers (15%) local guidelines and 14 centers (21%) used no guidelines at all. Also differences in indication for admission between centers were found. After ED discharge, 7 centers (10%) scheduled a routine follow-up appointment, while 38 (54%) did so only after ward admission. In conclusion, large between-center variation exists in policies for diagnostics, admission and discharge decisions in patients with mTBI at the ED and in hospital. Guidelines are not always operational in centers, and reported policies systematically diverge from what is recommended in those guidelines. The results of this study may be useful in the understanding of mTBI care in Europe and show the need for further studies on the effectiveness of different policies on outcome.