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The prevalence of clinically relevant delayed intracranial hemorrhage in head trauma patients treated with oral anticoagulants is very low: a retrospective cohort register study.

BACKGROUND: Current guidelines from Scandinavian Neuro Committee mandate a 24-hour observation for head trauma patients on anticoagulants, even with normal initial head CT scans, as a means not to miss delayed intracranial hemorrhages. This study aimed to assess the prevalence, and time to diagnosis, of clinically relevant delayed intracranial hemorrhage in head trauma patients treated with oral anticoagulants.

METHOD: Utilizing comprehensive two-year data from Region Skåne's emergency departments, which serve a population of 1.3 million inhabitants, this study focused on adult head trauma patients prescribed oral anticoagulants. We identified those with intracranial hemorrhage within 30 days, defining delayed intracranial hemorrhage as a bleeding not apparent on their initial CT head scan. These cases were further defined as clinically relevant if associated with mortality, any intensive care unit admission, or neurosurgery.

RESULTS: Out of the included 2,362 head injury cases (median age 84, 56% on a direct acting oral anticoagulant), five developed delayed intracranial hemorrhages. None of these five cases underwent neurosurgery nor were admitted to an intensive care unit. Only two cases (0.08%, 95% confidence interval [0.01-0.3%]) were classified as clinically relevant, involving subdural hematomas in patients aged 82 and 87 years, who both subsequently died. The diagnosis of these delayed intracranial hemorrhages was made at 4 and 7 days following initial presentation to the emergency department.

CONCLUSION: In patients with head trauma, on oral anticoagulation, the incidence of clinically relevant delayed intracranial hemorrhage was found to be less than one in a thousand, with detection occurring four days or later after initial presentation. This challenges the effectiveness of the 24-hour observation period recommended by the Scandinavian Neurotrauma Committee guidelines, suggesting a need to reassess these guidelines to optimise care and resource allocation.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: This is a retrospective cohort study, does not include any intervention, and has therefore not been registered.

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