Clinical Significance of Pneumocephalus in Pediatric Mild Traumatic Brain Injury

Hanalioglu D., Elbir C., Sahin O. S., Ercandirli A. K., Sahin B., Turkoglu M. E., ...More

Pediatric Emergency Care, vol.39, no.11, pp.836-840, 2023 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 39 Issue: 11
  • Publication Date: 2023
  • Doi Number: 10.1097/pec.0000000000003060
  • Journal Name: Pediatric Emergency Care
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, CAB Abstracts, CINAHL, MEDLINE
  • Page Numbers: pp.836-840
  • Keywords: computed tomography, pneumocephalus, skull fracture, traumatic brain injury
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


Objectives Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) comprises most (70%-90%) of all pediatric head trauma cases seeking emergency care. Although most mTBI cases have normal initial head computed tomography scan, a considerable portion of the cases have intracranial imaging abnormalities on computed tomography scan. Whereas other intracranial pathological findings have been extensively studied, little is known about the clinical significance of pneumocephalus in pediatric mTBI. Methods We retrospectively identified pediatric mTBI patients with pneumocephalus using the institutional database of a large regional trauma referral center. Outcome measures were defined as clinically important TBI (ciTBI), hospitalization, intensive care unit (ICU) admission, and neurosurgical intervention. Comparisons were made between pneumocephalus and control (isolated linear fracture) groups as well as between isolated (only linear fracture and pneumocephalus) and nonisolated pneumocephalus (pneumocephalus and TBI) groups. Results Among 3524 pediatric mTBI cases, 43 cases had pneumocephalus (1.2%). Twenty-one cases (48.8%) had isolated pneumocephalus. The pneumocephalus group had higher rates of ciTBI, hospital admission, ICU admission, and neurosurgery when compared with the isolated linear fracture (control) group. The isolated pneumocephalus group had fewer ciTBI (21.1% vs 70%, P = 0.002), fewer hospitalization (23.8% vs 81.8%, P < 0.001), but similar ICU admission rates (4.8% vs 22.7%, P = 0.089) and length of hospital stay (4.0 ± 2.7 vs 3.6 ± 2.4 days, P = 0.798) in comparison to the nonisolated pneumocephalus group. None of the patients in the isolated group had neurosurgery whereas 2 patients in the nonisolated pneumocephalus group underwent surgery. Multivariable analysis revealed pneumocephalus as an independent predictor of ciTBI and hospital admission, but not ICU admission or neurosurgical intervention. Conclusion Pneumocephalus is associated with increased rates of hospitalization and ciTBI, but not ICU admission, unfavorable outcome, or neurosurgical intervention in pediatric mTBI. Although usually spontaneously resolving pathology, it may occasionally be linked with complications such as cerebrospinal fluid leakage, meningitis, and tension pneumocephalus. Therefore, careful evaluation, close observation, and early detection of complications may prevent adverse outcomes.