The association between use of brain CT for atraumatic headache and 30-day emergency department revisitation

Brian W. Patterson, Peter S. Pang, Lora AlKhawam, Azita G. Hamedani, Eneida A. Mendonca, Ying Qi Zhao, Arjun K. Venkatesh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations


Objective. The purpose of this article is to describe the association between initial CT for atraumatic headache and repeat emergency department (ED) visitation within 30 days of ED discharge. MATERIALS AND METHODS. A retrospective observational study was performed at an academic urban ED with more than 85,000 annual visits. All adult patients with a chief complaint of headache from January through December 2010 who were discharged after ED evaluation were included in the analysis. Patients were excluded if they were transferred, died in the ED, or had a diagnosis indicating a traumatic mechanism. A propensity score-matched logistic regression model was used to determine whether the use of brain CT was associated with the primary outcome of ED revisitation within 30 days, controlling for potential confounding variables. RESULTS. Of 80,619 total patient visits to the ED during the study period, 922 ED discharges with a chief complaint of headache were included. A total of 139 (15.1%) patients revisited within 30 days. The return rate was 11.2% among patients who underwent CT at their initial visit and 21.1% among those who did not. In the adjusted analysis, controlling for age, race, sex, insurance status, triage vital signs, laboratory values, and triage pain level, the odds ratio for revisitation given CT performance was 0.49 (95% CI, 0.27-0.86). CONCLUSION. After adjustment for clinical factors, we found that patients who underwent a brain CT examination for atraumatic headache at an initial ED visit were less likely to return to the ED within 30 days. Future appropriate use quality metrics regarding ED imaging use may need to incorporate downstream health care use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)W117-W124
JournalAmerican Journal of Roentgenology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2016



  • Appropriate use
  • CT brain
  • Emergency
  • Headache

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

Cite this

Patterson, B. W., Pang, P. S., AlKhawam, L., Hamedani, A. G., Mendonca, E. A., Zhao, Y. Q., & Venkatesh, A. K. (2016). The association between use of brain CT for atraumatic headache and 30-day emergency department revisitation. American Journal of Roentgenology, 207(6), W117-W124.