OBJECTIVES To determine whether the presence and severity of post-traumatic vomiting can predict the risk of a skull vault fracture in adults and children.
METHODS Data were analysed relating to a consecutive series of 5416 patients including children who presented to an emergency service in the United Kingdom during a 1 year study period with a principal diagnosis of head injury. Characteristics studied were age, sex, speed of impact, level of consciousness on arrival, incidence of skull fracture, and the presence and severity of post-traumatic vomiting.
RESULTS The overall incidence of post-traumatic vomiting was 7% in adults and 12% in children. In patients with a skull fracture the incidence of post-traumatic vomiting was 28% in adults and 33% in children. Post-traumatic vomiting was associated with a fourfold increase in the relative risk for a skull fracture. Nausea alone did not increase the risk of a skull fracture and multiple episodes of vomiting were no more significant than a single episode. In patients who were fully alert at presentation, post-traumatic vomiting was associated with a twofold increase in relative risk for a skull fracture.
CONCLUSION These results support the incorporation of enquiry about vomiting into the guidelines for skull radiography. One episode of vomiting seems to be as significant as multiple episodes.
- head injuries
- skull radiography
- skull fracture
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