Overuse of Head Computed Tomography in Cirrhosis With Altered Mental Status.
Am J Med Sci. 2016 May;351(5):459-466
Authors: Rahimi RS, Rockey DC
BACKGROUND: Head computed tomography (CT) scans are ordered in patients with cirrhosis along with altered mental status (AMS) during admission, often, despite lack of evidence of any structural abnormality. Thus, we aimed to examine the use of head CT scans in patients with cirrhosis along with AMS and to correlate scan abnormalities with causes of AMS and physical findings.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: We defined AMS as having impaired cognition, diminished attention, reduced awareness or altered level of consciousness or all of these, and categorized AMS into the following groups: hepatic encephalopathy (HE), sepsis or infectious, metabolic, exogenous drugs or toxins, structural lesions or psychiatric abnormalities. The primary outcome was presence of any structural brain lesion on head CT scan in patients with cirrhosis along with AMS with correlation of focal neurologic deficits, specifically in patients with HE.
RESULTS: In total, 349 of 1,218 patients with cirrhosis who were admitted to the hospital had AMS; HE was the most common cause of AMS (164 of 349, 47%). A total of 64% (223 of 349) of patients with cirrhosis along with AMS underwent head CT scanning on admission, including 99 of 164 (60%) patients with HE. No patient with HE had focal neurologic findings, or a focal abnormality on head CT scan. Of the patients with focal abnormalities on CT scans, 100% had focal neurologic findings. Patients with cirrhosis along with AMS undergoing head CT scan had similar mortality (76 of 223, 34%) as those with AMS not undergoing head CT scans (47 of 126, 37%; P = nonsignificant).
CONCLUSIONS: Nearly two-thirds of patients with cirrhosis along with AMS had head CT scans performed on admission; all patients with a structural lesion on head CT scan had abnormal neurologic examinations. The data suggest that routine brain imaging in patients with cirrhosis that do not have focal neurologic findings is likely not indicated.
PMID: 27140703 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]