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Racial Trends in Head-Trauma Scans

More and more information is released every day that reminds local residents of the need to take traumatic head injuries seriously. The Illinois brain injury attorneys at our firm continue to share information about the need to avoid sweeping these head injuries under the rug–this includes seemingly minor hits like those taken in sports games or from slip and falls.

Fortunately, increased awareness of these injuries has led to a steady increase in the number of families who ensure they (and their children) receive basic care following head trauma. Statistics continue to show rising instances of emergency room visits for these issues. This is likely not a product of increasing head trauma but increasing awareness of the need to take the hit seriously. All of this is encouraging as more are likely to identify serious problems now than in the past. This is often the difference between a quick recover or complications from a lack of proper treatment/rest.

Yet, there are some differences regarding who is receiving what treatment. As reported in a recent Reuters article, there are demographic discrepancies involving who is receiving head scans following ER visits. For example, a study published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine recently found a racial difference between children receiving head scans following “low-risk” head trauma.

The Study
The researchers examined nearly 40,000 children across the country who had received some form of head trauma, from minor to serious. They examined trends to see if any differences popped up in the data, including determining whether head scans were conducted.

Perhaps the biggest issue identified was the racial breakdown of head scans for minor trauma. When it came to serious head injuries, there was no difference, the same percentage of children across all demographics received care. However, there were clear differences when it came to “minor” brain injuries–or those cases where there is more of a judgment call on whether extra help is needed. In that group, 42% of white children received a scan compared with only only 28% of black and Hispanic children.

Our Illinois brain injury lawyers were interested to see comment that this did not necessarily mean that the minority children were receiving worse care. The scans in and of themselves are not determinative of quality of treatment. For example, one researcher argued that while “it’s often…the minority groups [that] get worse care, but what we found is that the whites are more likely to get CT scans that are not indicated and could be risky because of the radiation exposure.”

Fine Line
This case is a reminder of the fine line that often exists in cases of minor head trauma. Obviously, it is crucial not to take these injuries lightly. As the researchers of this study pointed out traumatic brain injuries account for 600,000 ER visits, 60,000 hospital admissions, and 7,000 death in the U.S. every year. Yet, when it comes to somewhat risky treatment, such as radiation exposure from CT scans, it is important not to have unnecessary care. In the end, it is incumbent upon medical professionals to explain to families what treatment is appropriate in each case.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

Congressional Staffer Sustains Serious Head Injury

Child Drownings Often Lead to Brain Injuries