Category Archives: General

Evaluation After Head Injury in Adolescents

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the most common cause of death in children. Even mild concussions can cause some degree of functional impairment. Many clinicians believe that the degree of impairment correlates with the initial Glasgow Coma Scale score (GCS), although this has only been shown in adults. This has led many hospitals to perform cognitive screening selectively, usually on adolescents with lower GCS scores.

A recent study by Goold and Vane at the Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center in St. Louis, and the University of Vermont College of Medicine in Burlington looked at the correlation between GCS and level of impairment, and ways to determine which groups of adolescents need more sophisticated cognitive testing to evaluate deficits.

A total of 609 young adults age 13-21 with brain injuries were identified, and a cognitive screening test was performed (Occupational Therapy Head Injury Mini Screen [OT HIMS]). There was no correlation between GCS and the components of the OT HIMS. Interestingly, the GCS did not predict which patients were discharged to rehab centers either.

The Bottom Line: Adolescents can develop significant cognitive deficits or behavior issues after any degree of head injury. Because of this, it is not possible to selectively screen for cognitive deficits. All adolescents age 13-21 should undergo screening with an instrument like the OT HIMS after head injury.

At our Level I Pediatric Trauma Center, we consider a child to have a TBI if:

  • the mechanism involves head impact and
  • any of the following apply:
    • known or suspected loss of consciousness
    • cannot remember the event
    • parents detect any change in behavior

All of these children undergo a TBI screen performed by Gillette Children’s Specialty Hospital physiatry, occupational and physical therapy services. If needed, they receive followup in the Gillette Minor Neurotrauma Clinic.

Reference: Goold D, Vane DW. Evaluation of Functionality After Head Injury in Adolescents. Journal of Trauma 2009;67:71-74.

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Forensic Nursing

Forensic Nursing combines nursing science with the investigation of injuries or deaths that involve accidents, abuse, violence or criminal activity. Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE nurses) are one of the most recognized types of forensic nurses, but they have special training in one type of injury. Forensic nursing programs typically involve a broader set of skills, encompassing some or all of the following:

  • Interpersonal violence, including domestic violence, child and elder abuse/neglect, psychological abuse
  • Forensic mental health
  • Correctional nursing
  • Legal nurse consulting
  • Emergency/trauma services, including auto and pedestrian accidents, traumatic injuries, suicide attempts, work-related injuries, disasters
  • Patient care facility issues, including accidents/injuries/neglect, inappropriate treatments & meds
  • Public health and safety, including environmental hazards, alcohol and drug abuse, food and drug tampering, illegal abortion practices, epidemiology, and organ donation
  • Death investigation, including homicides, suicides, suspicious or accidental deaths, and mass disasters

Forensic nurses find that their additional training improves their basic nursing skills, and allows them to derive greater career satisfaction from helping patient in another rather unique way.

Approximately 37 training programs exist, ranging from certificate programs that require a specific number of hours of training, to degree programs (typically Masters level programs). Many of the certificate programs are available as online training. 

Source: International Association of Forensic Nurses (http://www.iafn.org/)

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High Inspired O2 Is Not An Effective Pneumothorax Treatment

The use of high concentrations of inspired oxygen seems to be a time-honored technique for trying to avoid chest tube insertion for pneumothorax. But does it stand up to scrutiny, or is this just an urban legend?

This recommendation is based upon a single case report involving 8 patients in 1983! Six patients with a pneumothorax of less than 30% showed a decrease in size of 4.2% per day on average. The two patients with pneumothoraces larger than 30% did not respond. A response was only seen with oxygen administered by a partial nonrebreather mask, not by nasal cannula.

What’s the problem? First, this is a very small case report. There were no controls, so it is entirely possible that the resolution rate without treatment was the same as that seen in this report. Furthermore, this study was performed prior to the availability of chest CT. Therefore, the true size of the pneumothoraces is only a guess since volumetric calculations could not be performed. It is not possible to distinguish a 4% change in the size of a pneumothorax by regular chest xray (click here for more details).

The bottom line: If the patient needs supplemental oxygen for management of other pulmonary conditions, then administer it. It is not indicated as an independent treatment for pneumothorax, and its use for this condition should be abandoned!

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Reference: Noninvasive treatment of pneumothorax with oxygen inhalation. Chadha TS. Respiration 44(2):147-52, 1983

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