Early diagnosis and practice variation of acute non-traumatic brain injury in children and adolescents presenting to the emergency department

Project Lead: Lawrence Richer, University of Alberta’s Division of Pediatric Neurology / Associate Dean, Clinical & Translational Research

Acute brain disorders in children present as a “brain attack” in the early phases. The diagnosis of this “brain attack” may vary in symptoms that range from migraines or epilepsy to rare vascular or inflammatory disorders. Early diagnosis and treatment in the emergency department is fundamental to minimize the impact of brain injury in youth; providing the right tools to frontline emergency physicians can facilitate an early diagnosis and improve neurological outcomes.


A biostatistical model to accurately predict and manage brain injury

Richer’s team is developing a ‘biostatistical model’ that can better predict those patients that are more likely to have a medically urgent underlying cause of brain attack, and adjust care accordingly.

After a one-year review of epidemiology, presenting signs and symptoms, and management of pediatric brain attacks in the Stollery Children’s Hospital Emergency Department, the research team has produced a predictive model for medically urgent “brain attack.” This research also shows that over half of the neuroimaging studies (CT and MRI) could likely be avoided. A second year of charts is being reviewed, and its results will be used to validate the model developed with data from the first year.

This innovative model could potentially accelerate diagnoses, decrease unnecessary tests such as ‘neuroimaging’ and support the development of evidence-informed guidelines for specialized care in this population.