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NICE calls for CT scans for head injuries within one hour

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People who suffer a head injury and require an ambulance should be taken straight to hospitals with resuscitation equipment, according to new guidelines.

At present, those who suffer a head injury are often taken to their nearest hospital for treatment.

But new draft guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) says they must go to hospitals with the right equipment.

In addition, children and adults with a head injury that could be serious or life-threatening - such as the person is having a seizure, has a suspected skull fracture, repeated vomiting or loss of consciousness - should be given a CT brain scan within one hour.

Others should be scanned within four to eight hours of their injury, depending on its severity, the new guidelines add. At present, Nice suggests people should be scanned within eight hours.

Around 1.4 million people attend A&E in England and Wales each year with a head injury. Up to 700,000 are children under the age of 15.

Overall, around 2,000 people are admitted to hospital because of head injuries. They are the most common cause of death and disability in people under 40.

The new guidelines also say a hospital doctor or specialist who is trained in dealing with sensitive cases - such as cases of domestic abuse - should be involved in checking any patient with a head injury who is seen at A&E.

This particularly applies if the injury looks as though it may not be from an accident, or if a vulnerable person has been injured.

Professor Mark Baker, director of the centre for clinical practice at NICE, said: “Since we last published our head injury guideline, there have been new medical advances and developments in the way the NHS works - such as the 2012 introduction of regional trauma networks.

“Our guidelines must continue to reflect the best available, up-to-date evidence so as to demonstrate best practice to the NHS and to save lives.

“This latest update makes recommendations on the early detection and treatment of potentially life-threatening brain injuries.

“Following our previous guidelines on head injury, new imaging techniques have become standard assessment tools, more people have their care managed in specialist centres, and fewer people are dying from their head injury.”

The new guidelines are subject to consultation and are expected to be published in January 2014.

<> (Primary care)


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