✓ Although experimental and pathological studies suggest an important role for ischemia in the majority of fatal cases of traumatic brain injury, ischemia has been a rare finding in most clinical studies of cerebral blood flow (CBF) in head-injured patients. The hypothesis of the present study was that cerebral ischemia occurs in the first few hours after injury, but that CBF measurements have not been performed early enough. Early measurements of CBF (by the 133Xe intravenous method) and arteriovenous oxygen difference (AVDO2) were obtained in 186 adult head-injured patients with a Glasgow Coma Scale score of 8 or less, and were correlated with neurological status and outcome. During the first 6 hours after injury, CBF was low (22.5 ± 5.2 ml/100 gm/min) but increased significantly during the first 24 hours. The AVDO2 followed the opposite course; the decline of AVDO2 was most profound in patients with low motor scores, suggesting relative hyperemia after 24 hours. A significant correlation between motor score and CBF was found in the first 8 hours after injury (Spearman coefficient = 0.69, p < 0.001), but as early as 12 hours postinjury this correlation was lost. A similar pattern was found for the relationship between CBF and outcome. Cerebral blood flow below the threshold for infarction (CBF ≤ 18 ml/100 gm/min) was found in one-third of the studies obtained within 6 hours, the incidence rapidly decreasing thereafter. A low CBF after 24 hours was not generally associated with a high AVDO2, and was probably a reflection of low oxidative metabolism rather than frank ischemia. In 24 patients, a CBF of 18 ml/100 gm/min or less was found at some point after injury; the mortality rate was significantly higher in this subgroup, and survivors did worse. In some cases, ischemia was successfully treated by reducing hyperventilation or inducing arterial hypertension. These results support the above hypothesis, and suggest that early ischemia after traumatic brain injury may be an important factor determining neurological outcome. Moreover, these data indicate that early hyperventilation or lowering of blood pressure to prevent brain edema may be harmful.
Gerrit J. Bouma, J. Paul Muizelaar, Sung C. Choi, Pauline G. Newlon and Harold F. Young
John D. Ward, Donald P. Becker, J. Douglas Miller, Sung C. Choi, Anthony Marmarou, Cheryl Wood, Pauline G. Newlon and Richard Keenan
✓ In certain subgroups of severely head-injured patients, the mortality rate remains unacceptably high. The authors describe a randomized, controlled trial of prophylactic pentobarbital therapy in a group of these patients. Pentobarbital was started as soon as possible after the head injury, regardless of the intracranial pressure (ICP), and was continued for a prescribed period of time. The study included 53 consecutive head-injured patients over the age of 12 years, who had either an acute intradural hematoma (subdural and/or intracerebral, large enough to warrant surgical decompression), or no mass lesion but whose best motor response was abnormal flexion or extension. All patients in the study were randomly assigned to a control group (26 cases) or a pentobarbital-treated group (27 cases) once the diagnosis had been made and informed consent obtained. All patients were treated with the same protocol of aggressive resuscitation, prompt diagnosis and treatment of mass lesions, and intensive care, with close follow-up monitoring. The randomization was effective in producing a close match between the control and treated groups with respect to age, sex distribution, cause of injury, neurological status, intracranial lesions, prevalence of early systemic insults, midline shift, and initial ICP. Outcome was essentially the same in each group. There was no difference between groups in the incidence of elevated ICP, the duration of ICP elevation, or the response of ICP elevations to treatment. Arterial hypotension occurred in 14 patients (54%) in the treated group and only two patients (7percnt;) in the untreated group. Based on these data the authors cannot recommend the prophylactic use of pentobarbital coma in the treatment of patients with severe head injury. They also believe that its use is accompanied by significant side effects which can potentially worsen the condition of a patient with severe head injury.