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01.03.2017 | original article | Ausgabe 5-6/2017

Wiener klinische Wochenschrift 5-6/2017

Growing number of emergency cranial CTs in patients with head injury not justified by their clinical need

Wiener klinische Wochenschrift > Ausgabe 5-6/2017
M.D. M.S.C.S. Ph.D. Lukas Lambert, Ondrej Foltan, Jan Briza, Alena Lambertova, Pavel Harsa, Rohan Banerjee, Jan Danes



Computed tomography (CT) is widely available in most hospitals, usually 24 h a day, which results in an expansion of its indications, sometimes beyond medically justifiable extent.


To evaluate trends in emergency cranial CTs in a general university hospital during the last 15 years.


We conducted a database search for emergency cranial CTs between January 2000 and December 2015 that were performed in patients after head injury on weekends and bank holidays and between 8 P.M. and 6 A.M. on workdays. The numbers were compared with demographic data, the number of hospital beds, and total number of CT examinations.


The annual number of emergency cranial CTs increased 5.5 times from 124 to 679 with a sharp increase since 2013. This trend showed a negative correlation with the number of hospital beds (r = −0.88, p = 0.0001), the proportion of important findings on cranial CT (r = −0.74, p = 0.0010), or the proportion of patients indicated for cranial CT by NICE 2014 criteria (r = −0.90, p < 0.0001) and positive correlation with the proportion of inebriated patients (r = 0.94, p < 0.0001), and their average GCS score (r = 0.92, p < 0.0001). Compared to the number of emergency cranial CTs, the slope of regression lines for all trends was significantly different (p < 0.001) apart from the number of inebriated patients (p = 0.062).


The increase in the emergency cranial CTs cannot be entirely justified by their clinical need. We assume that this is the result of an absent support of adherence to the guidelines in the legislation together with a medicolegally unpredictable environment.

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