BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Head CT is the current neuroimaging tool of choice in acute evaluation of pediatric head trauma. The potential cancer risks of CT-related ionizing radiation should limit its use in children. We evaluated the role of MR imaging, including a "black bone" sequence, compared with CT in detecting skull fractures and intracranial hemorrhages in children with acute head trauma.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: We performed a retrospective evaluation of 2D head CT and brain MR imaging studies including the black bone sequence of children with head trauma. Two experienced pediatric neuroradiologists in consensus created the standard of reference. Another pediatric neuroradiologist blinded to the diagnosis evaluated brain MR images and head CT images in 2 separate sessions. The presence of skull fractures and intracranial posttraumatic hemorrhages was evaluated. We calculated the sensitivity and specificity of CT and MR imaging with the black bone sequence in the diagnosis of skull fractures and intracranial hemorrhages.
RESULTS: Twenty-eight children (24 boys; mean age, 4.89 years; range, 0-15.5 years) with head trauma were included. MR imaging with the black bone sequence revealed lower sensitivity (66.7% versus 100%) and specificity (87.5% versus 100%) in identifying skull fractures. Four of 6 incorrectly interpreted black bone MR imaging studies showed cranial sutures being misinterpreted as skull fractures and vice versa.
CONCLUSIONS: Our preliminary results show that brain MR imaging complemented by a black bone sequence is a promising nonionizing alternative to head CT for the assessment of skull fractures in children. However, accuracy in the detection of linear fractures in young children and fractures of aerated bone remains limited.