Research Reports - Developmental outcomes after traumatic brain injury in young children: Are infants more vulnerable than toddlers?

Dr. Heather T KeenanDr. Angela P PressonMs. Amy E ClarkDr. Charles S CoxDr. Linda Ewing-Cobbs

Journal of Neurotrauma, Published Online:18 Jul 2018

Children under 4 years of age have the highest incidence of traumatic brain injury (TBI) among the non-elderly and may be at high risk of poor developmental outcomes. We prospectively enrolled a cohort of children injured before 31 months old with TBI or orthopaedic injury (OI), from 2013 to 2015 at two pediatric level 1 trauma centers to study very young children's developmental outcomes after injury. We used Ages & Stages-3 (ASQ-3) and Ages & Stages: Social-Emotional (ASQ:SE) screening tools to measure children's development at pre-injury, 3 and 12 months post-injury. The cohort included 123 children with TBI categorized as mild (n=48), complicated-mild or moderate (n=54), and severe (n=21) and 45 children with OI. Generalized linear models examined effects of injury severity and age at injury controlling for pre-injury ratings. Children with mild or complicated-mild/moderate TBI generally remained on developmental track. Compared to OI, children with severe TBI tended to have a negative developmental trajectory with decrements in communication (-7.07, 95%CI: -13.7, -0.48), gross motor (-15.2, 95%CI: -21.1, -9.19), problem-solving (-11.6, 95%CI: -17.9, -5.29), personal-social (-16.8, 95%CI: -22.8, -10.8) and social-emotional (21.0, 95%CI: 7.32, 34.7) domains 12-months post-injury. Developmental effects from TBI differed by age at injury: infants had more difficulties than older children in communication and problem-solving domains. Despite low developmental scores in 28% of the cohort, only 5% were receiving Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) services 12-months after injury. Early age at injury is a vulnerability factor after TBI. Young age and severe injury should prompt evaluation for ECI.

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