Treatments for head or brain injury in children

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Contact the Brain Injury Center

Boston Children's Hospital has been a worldwide innovator in diagnosing and treating pediatric head and brain injuries for decades. Learn more about how the Brain Injury Center helps children who have head and brain injury.

Treatment options

Like the injuries themselves, the treatment options for head and brain injuries are widespread and very specific to the individual child. Your child's treatment team will develop a customized care plan according to:

  • the type of head injury your child has sustained
  • the extent of the injury
  • whether the brain is affected
  • the extent of complications your child is experiencing
  • your child's age, overall health and medical history
  • your child's tolerance for specific medications, procedures or therapies
  • your family's preferences for treatment

Depending on the severity of the injury, treatment may include any or all of the following:

For mild to moderate injuries

  • ice applied to the injured area
  • rest (both physical and mental)
  • topical antibiotic ointment
  • bandaging
  • medical observation, either as an inpatient or outpatient

For moderate to severe injuries

  • emergency medical attention
  • stitches
  • hospitalization for observation
  • surgery

Monitoring intracranial pressure (ICP)

The space within your child's skull is limited. That means that some head injuries can cause a buildup of pressure inside the skull—known as intracranial pressure.

If left untreated, excessive ICP can lead to brain damage. For this reason, your child's treatment team will begin monitoring his ICP immediately if he is deemed to be at risk for this complication.

How is ICP monitored?

Intracranial pressure is measured by either:

  • placing a small, hollow tube (called a catheter) into the fluid-filled space in the brain (called a ventricle) or

  • placing a small, hollow device (called a bolt) through the skull into the space just between the skull and the brain.

  • The bolt or catheter will be inserted either in the operating room (OR) or in the intensive care unit (ICU). Next, it will be hooked up to a monitor that gives a constant reading of the pressure inside your child's skull. If the pressure goes up, the device can be used to withdraw the excess fluid.

  • While the bolt or catheter is in place, your child will be given medicine to help keep her comfortable. When the swelling has gone down and there is little chance of further swelling, the device will be removed.

Lifelong considerations for children with brain injuries

Children who suffer a serious brain injury may lose some or all of their movement, speech, vision, hearing or taste abilities, depending on the area where the damage occurred and the extent of its impact.

In addition, brain injuries can cause short-term or permanent changes to a child's personality and behavior. As a result, some children will need lifelong medical and rehabilitative support, including:

Regardless of the severity of your child's brain injury, it's crucial to focus on maximizing his capabilities at home, at school and in the community. Positive reinforcement from you and other family members, combined with professional support services, will help your child strengthen his self-esteem and gain the greatest possible level of independence.

Helpful links

Please note that neither Boston Children's Hospital, the Brain Injury Center nor the Trauma Center at Children's unreservedly endorses all of the information found at the sites listed below. These links are provided as a resource.

We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

Boston Children's Hospital 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115 617-355-6000 | 800-355-7944