The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released guidelines on the diagnosis and management of Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI), otherwise known as a concussion, among children. Pediatric concussions have long been a concern, with more than 800,000 children visiting emergency rooms annually for TBI-related symptoms. Yet, until this report, there was no "evidence-based guideline" in place for the treatment for such injuries, as noted by Deb Houry, director of CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.
The nature of concussions has made establishing evidence for guidelines very challenging. The often vague, nonspecific symptoms result in many concussions going undiagnosed or concussion diagnoses when there is another cause of the child's symptoms. Additionally, there is very limited quantifiable data to support how to treat concussions. Since the diagnosis is difficult to make and recovery is hard to measure, concussion research remains in its infancy.
However, this report marks an important first step in universalizing the treatment and management of mTBI for pediatric patients, which can be applied across several different practice areas that may care for such patients, such as emergency medicine and neurology. While sports medicine doctors have increasingly become the go-to for the treatment of concussions, there is a need to implement appropriate protocol that can be followed by all health-care professionals to ensure the safety of patients.
The report, which outlines 19 sets of recommendations for physicians on the diagnosis, prognosis and management of pediatric mTBI, represents current best practices that should be followed across the medical community. The key takeaways for health-care providers that the general public would be also interested in are:
For health-care providers, these guidelines serve as the go-to resource for the treatment of pediatric mTBI. The CDC also references that parents and caregivers – including babysitters, teachers and coaches – can use these guidelines to keep children safe. This is especially relevant now that school is back in session, opening more opportunities for injuries on playgrounds or during fall sports. Parents, caregivers and teachers can also check out the CDC's HEADS UP page as a resource.