Head Injury in Children Has Lasting Impact
Children with even mild head injury
may be at risk for long-term complications, including personality
changes and behavioral and learning problems, according to a new
study from the UK.
"Many children with mild injury
do not receive routine follow-up after discharge home from hospital,
yet a significant proportion of them do have some lasting problems
which may affect their behavior and ability to learn," Dr. Carol
A. Hawley of the University of Warwick in Coventry stated.
"This may put them at a disadvantage
at school," Hawley said.
To identify children suffering
from the lingering effects of a head injury, Hawley's team is
working on a questionnaire that physicians could send to parents
after children with head injury are sent home from the hospital.
Children found to be at risk of
problems could be offered a follow-up assessment, Hawley said.
If necessary, children could be referred to an appropriate health
professional, such as an educational psychologist, the UK researcher
Hawley's study included more than
500 children who had experienced a head injury over a 6-year period.
"We asked parents to tell us what
changes they noticed in their child after the head injury, and
what follow-up they had received from clinicians," Hawley explained.
The researchers also received questionnaires
from a control group of parents of 45 children who had not had
a head injury.
"Even after a mild head injury,
one in five children had a change in personality according to
their parents," Hawley said.
Parents often described the personality
change as "like having a different child" than before the head
injury, according to Hawley.
And 43 percent of children with
mild head injury had behavioral or learning problems that led
to them being described as having a "moderate disability," she
Among children with more serious
head injuries, about two thirds had moderate disability, and about
half experienced a major change in personality after the head
injury, Hawley said.
All of the children in the study
had been treated in a hospital after having a head injury, but
only 30 percent of parents said that doctors at the hospital had
made a follow-up appointment for their child. In fact, 161 of
the 252 children with moderate disability did not receive any
follow-up care, according to the report in the May issue of the
Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry.
"It is likely that there are considerable
numbers of children in the community, and back at school, who
have suffered a head injury in the past and who might have subtle
but important difficulties relating to that head injury," Hawley
SOURCE: Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery,
and Psychiatry, May 2004.
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