Investigating head injury (summary)

Dr Daniel J Bell and Dr Derek Smith et al.
This is a basic article for medical students and other non-radiologists

Investigating head injury is frequently required because head injury is common: in the US there are 1.3 million traumatic brain injuries per year 1. Causes include falls (children and the elderly), motor vehicle accidents (adults) 1, or direct trauma from an object, assault or inflicted injuries (pediatric patients).

Reference article

This is a summary article; read more in our article on traumatic brain injury.

  • questions
    • what was the mechanism of injury?
    • what was the GCS and what is it now?
    • has the patient been unconscious?
    • is the patient protecting their airway?
    • is the patient safe to leave their current environment?
  • investigations
    • CT head
      • most useful investigation
      • non-contrast examination from skull vertex to palate
      • usually performed as a volume allowing reconstruction
      • particularly useful for hemorrhage and fractures
    • MRI
      • occasionally used
      • useful in patients who are not waking up
  • making the request
    • does a CT need to be done?
      • NICE guidance, Canadian CT head rules
    • does it need to be done urgently?
      • why?
    • is the patient safe to come to CT?
  • common pathology
Medical student radiology curriculum

Article information

rID: 35539
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:

ADVERTISEMENT: Supporters see fewers/no ads

Cases and figures

  • Case 1: self-inflicted cranial gunshot wound
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Case 2: extradural hemorrhage
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Case 3: subdural hematoma - with drainage
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Updating… Please wait.

     Unable to process the form. Check for errors and try again.

     Thank you for updating your details.