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Claudia S. Robertson and Robert G. Grossman

✓ The effect of insulin-induced reduction in blood glucose to 65 ± 20 mg/dl (mean ± standard deviation) on recovery of electrophysiological function and extracellular lactate concentration was studied in a rabbit model of spinal cord ischemia. These results were compared to findings in animals with spinal cord ischemia that either were fasted overnight (fasted group: blood glucose 97 ± 26 mg/dl) or had no pretreatment (control group: blood glucose 172 ± 65 mg/dl). The aorta was occluded until the postsynaptic waves of the spinal somatosensory evoked potentials (SSEP's) had been absent for 20 minutes, a period of ischemia that produces paraplegia in 100% of untreated rabbits. The total aortic occlusion time was not significantly different in the three groups. Recovery of the SSEP's was significantly better in the insulin-treated animals than in the fasted or control animals. The N3 wave of the SSEP's, which has been found to correlate best with neurological recovery, returned to 65% ± 48% of the preischemia amplitude in the insulin-treated animals, compared to 40% ± 34% in the fasted group and 26% ± 24% in the control animals. Extracellular lactate concentration in the spinal cord increased immediately after occlusion of the aorta, reached a plateau as the postsynaptic waves disappeared from the SSEP's, and then increased a second time during the first 15 minutes of reperfusion. The peak lactate concentration during ischemia and during reperfusion correlated with the preischemia glucose concentration (r = 0.60336 and r = 0.76930, respectively). Lactate concentration in the spinal cord was higher during ischemia and throughout the first 2 hours of reperfusion in the control and fasted animals than in the insulin-treated animals. During the 2nd hour of reperfusion, lactate concentration was significantly higher in the control animals than in the fasted animals. Reduction in blood glucose with insulin improves recovery of electrophysiological function after spinal cord ischemia, probably because of reduced lactic acid production, especially during the early reperfusion period.

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Manuela Cormio, Alex B. Valadka and Claudia S. Robertson

Object. The aim of this study was to investigate the incidence of elevated (≥ 75%) jugular venous oxygen saturation (SjvO2) and its relationship to cerebral hemodynamic and metabolic parameters and to outcome after severe head injury.

Methods. Data from 450 severely head injured patients admitted to the Neurosurgical Intensive Care Unit of Ben Taub General Hospital were analyzed retrospectively. The SjvO2 was measured in blood obtained from indwelling jugular bulb catheters. Patients were classified into the following categories: high (Group I), normal (Group II), or low SjvO2 (Group III) if their mean SjvO2 over the duration of monitoring was 75% or higher, 74 to 56%, or 55% or lower, respectively.

A high SjvO2 occurred in 19.1% of patients. There was no consistent relationship between SjvO2 and simultaneous cerebral blood flow (CBF) or cerebral perfusion pressure measurements. Compared with Groups II and III, the patients in Group I had a significantly higher CBF and lower cerebral metabolic rate of oxygen (CMRO2). In Group I, the outcomes were death or persistent vegetative state in 48.8% of patients and severe disability in 25.6%. These outcomes were significantly worse than for patients in Group II. Within Group I, the patients with a poor neurological outcome were older and more likely to have suffered a focal head injury; they demonstrated a lower CMRO2 and a greater rate of cerebral lactate production than the patients who attained a favorable outcome.

Conclusions. Posttraumatic elevation of SjvO2 is common but cannot be automatically equated with hyperemia. Instead, elevated SjvO2 is a heterogeneous condition that is associated with poor outcome after head injury and may carry important implications for the management of comatose patients.

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Claudia S. Robertson, Guy L. Clifton and J. Clay Goodman

✓ The effect of steroid administration on metabolic rate and nitrogen excretion was examined in 20 head-injured patients alternately assigned to receive either methylprednisolone for 14 days or no steroid treatment. Although metabolic rate, caloric intake, and nitrogen intake were not different between the two groups, the patients who received steroids had a 30% higher excretion of nitrogen during the first 6 days after injury than did the patients not receiving steroids. All patients had an increase in nitrogen excretion through the 2nd week, peaking on Day 11. By Day 21 after injury, the patients had an average cumulative nitrogen loss of 162 gm and had lost an average of 5 kg body weight regardless of whether they had received steroids. Serum albumin levels decreased in the steroid-treated patients but returned to nearly normal by Day 21 in the untreated group. Immunosuppression, evidenced by a lower initial total lymphocyte count and a higher incidence of infections, was present in the steroid group; hyperglycemia requiring insulin treatment was more common in those patients.

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Roukoz B. Chamoun, Claudia S. Robertson and Shankar P. Gopinath


A Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score of 3 on presentation in patients with severe traumatic brain injury due to blunt trauma has been recognized as a bad prognostic factor. The reported mortality rate in these patients is very high, even approaching 100% in the presence of fixed and dilated pupils in some series. Consequently, there is often a tendency to treat these patients less aggressively because of the low expectations for a good recovery. In this paper, the authors' purpose is to report their experience in the management of this patient population, analyzing the mortality rate, prognostic factors, and functional outcome of survivors.


The authors performed a retrospective review of patients who presented between 1997 and 2007 with blunt head trauma and a GCS score of 3. Demographics, mechanism of injury, examination, blood alcohol level, associated injury, intracranial pressure (ICP), surgical procedures, and outcome were all recorded.


A total of 189 patients met the inclusion criteria and were included in this study. The overall mortality rate was 49.2%. At the 6-month follow-up, 13.2% of the entire series achieved a good functional outcome (Glasgow Outcome Scale [GOS] score of 1 or 2).

The patient population was then divided into 2 groups: Group 1 (patients who survived [96]) and Group 2 (patients who died [93]). Patients in Group 1 were younger (mean 33.3 ± 12.8 vs 40.3 ± 16.97 years; p = 0.002) and had lower ICP on admission (mean 16.3 ± 11.1 vs 25.7 ± 12.7 mm Hg; p < 0.001) than those in Group 2. The difference between the 2 groups regarding sex, mechanism of injury, hypotension on admission, alcohol, surgery, and associated injuries was not statistically significant.

The presence of bilateral fixed, dilated pupils was found to be associated with the highest mortality rate (79.7%). Although not statistically significant because of the sample size, pupil status was also a good predictor of the functional outcome at the 6-month follow-up; a good functional outcome (GOS Score 1 or 2) was achieved in 25.5% of patients presenting with bilateral reactive pupils, and 27.6% of patients presenting with a unilateral fixed, dilated pupil, compared with 7.5% for those presenting with bilateral fixed, nondilated pupils, and 1.4% for patients with bilateral fixed, dilated pupils.


Overall, 50.8% of patients survived their injury and 13.2% achieved a good functional outcome after at 6 months of follow-up (GOS Score 1 or 2). Age, ICP on admission, and pupil status were found to be significant predictive factors of outcome. In particular, pupil size and reactivity appeared to be the most important prognostic factor since the mortality rate was 23.5% in the presence of bilateral reactive pupils and 79.7% in the case of bilateral fixed, dilated pupils. The authors believe that patients having suffered traumatic brain injury and present with a GCS score of 3 should still be treated aggressively initially since a good functional outcome can be obtained in some cases.

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Guy L. Clifton, Claudia S. Robertson and Charles F. Contant

✓ The objectives of this study were to determine the ability of enteral hyperalimentation to meet the caloric and protein requirements in acute severe head injury, and to study the effect of increasing protein intake on nitrogen balance. This consecutive series of 20 patients suffered acute severe head injury and remained comatose for at least 24 hours. They were all without other major injuries, and were treated with steroids. These patients were randomly placed in two comparable treatment groups: one group was fed with an enteral formula containing 14% of its calories as protein and the other group received a formula containing 22% protein calories. Feedings were advanced to replace 140% of caloric expenditure measured by indirect calorimetry, averaging 3500 kcal/24 hr. Balance periods of the targeted intake were 7 days in duration, and were begun during the 1st week after injury for 65% of patients and in the 2nd week after injury for 35% of patients. The lower protein group received an average of 26.8 gm/24 hr of nitrogen, equivalent to 188 gm of protein, and the higher protein group 34.3 gm/24 hr, equivalent to 231 gm of protein. Nitrogen balance was −9.2 ± 6.7 gm/24 hr in the lower protein group and −5.3 ± 5.0 gm/24 hr in the higher protein group, but the difference did not reach statistical significance because of sample size and variability in extent of catabolism among patients. Despite the hyperalimentation, there was a mean negative cumulative nitrogen balance of 200 gm by the 2nd week after injury, and only three patients achieved net nitrogen equilibrium for the 7-day balance period. Despite enteral hyperalimentation, the patients' weight fell by 15% in the 2nd week, serum albumin was often decreased, and creatinine-height index decreased over time but remained in a normal range. Monitoring urinary urea nitrogen, which has been advocated as a generally available technique for measuring urinary nitrogen concentration, was found to be a poor measure of urinary nitrogen excretion. This work has demonstrated: 1) that high caloric and protein feedings may be delivered for prolonged periods enterally for most patients in the acute phase of head injury with few metabolic complications, and 2) that increasing the nitrogen content of feedings from 14% to 22% may somewhat improve nitrogen retention, although nitrogen equilibrium is seldom achieved.

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Aditya Vedantam, Claudia S. Robertson and Shankar P. Gopinath


Early withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment due to expected poor prognosis is responsible for the majority of in-house deaths in severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). With increased focus on the decision and timing of withdrawal of care in patients with severe TBI, data on early neurological recovery in patients with a favorable outcome is needed to guide physicians and families.


The authors reviewed prospectively collected data obtained in 1241 patients with head injury who were treated between 1986 and 2012. Patients with severe TBI, motor Glasgow Coma Scale (mGCS) score < 6 on admission, and those who had favorable outcomes (Glasgow Outcome Scale [GOS] score of 4 or 5, indicating moderate disability or good recovery) at 6 months were selected. Baseline demographic, clinical, and imaging data were analyzed. The time from injury to the first record of following commands (mGCS score of 6) after injury was recorded. The temporal profile of GOS scores from discharge to 6 months after the injury was also assessed.


The authors studied 218 patients (183 male and 35 female) with a mean age of 28.9 ± 11.2 years. The majority of patients were able to follow commands (mGCS score of 6) within the 1st week after injury (71.4%), with the highest percentage of patients in this group recovering on Day 1 (28.6%). Recovery to the point of following commands beyond 2 weeks after the injury was seen in 14.8% of patients, who experienced significantly longer durations of intracranial pressure monitoring (p = 0.001) and neuromuscular blockade (p < 0.001). In comparison with patients with moderate disability, patients with good recovery had a higher initial GCS score (p = 0.01), lower incidence of anisocoria at admission (p = 0.048), and a shorter ICU stay (p < 0.001) and total hospital stay (p < 0.001). There was considerable improvement in GOS scores from discharge to follow-up at 6 months.


Up to 15% of patients with a favorable outcome after severe TBI may begin to follow commands beyond 2 weeks after the injury. These data caution against early withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment in patients with severe TBI.