New guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say X-rays and blood tests typically aren't necessary for diagnosing a concussion in children.
Going to your child's primary care doctor for routine cognitive testing would be more efficient and effective, said Jenna Ford, an advance practice nurse at OSF Healthcare's Illinois Neurological Institute in Peoria.
“There is cost, but there’s also radiation risk and also sometimes it reassures parents that if a CT (scan) is negative that nothing is wrong, but there still is damage done at the cellular level that we can’t see on CT scans,” Ford said.
The report said more serious concussion symptoms such as vomiting, unconsciousness and worsening headaches would warrant imaging scans.
Ford notes kids can get concussions in many ways other than sports, taking a fall, getting hit by something or being in a car accident.
“We do know that a greater percentage of head injuries in children, adolescents and adults does not occur from sports and other recreational activities,” Ford said. “Children have to be managed much more conservatively just because they are more vulnerable.”
The guidelines were released Tuesday in JAMA Pediatrics. The CDC says it's the first broad evidence-based advice for diagnosing and treating children's concussions.
The report aimed to reassure parents that most kids' concussion symptoms clear up within one to three months.
Some 1 million U.S. children get concussions each year although the true frequency is unknown because there is no national effort to track them. The CDC has proposed a surveillance system to fill that gap.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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