Head injury is a major cause of death and disability in children. Despite advances in resuscitation, emergency care, intensive care monitoring, and clinical practices, there are few data demonstrating the predictive value of certain physiological variables regarding outcome in this patient population. Mean arterial blood pressure (MABP), intracranial pressure (ICP), and cerebral perfusion pressure (CPP = MABP − ICP) are routinely monitored in patients in many neurological intensive care units throughout the world, but there is little evidence indicating that advances in care have been matched with corresponding improvements in outcome.
Nonetheless, there is evidence that hypotension immediately following head injury is predictive of early death, and many patients with these features die with clinical signs of brain herniation caused by intracranial hypertension. Furthermore, available data indicate that a minimal and a mean CPP measured during intensive care are good predictors of outcome in survivors, but a target threshold to improve outcome has yet to be defined.
Some medical management strategies can have detrimental effects, and there is now a good case for undertaking a controlled trial of immediate or delayed craniectomy. Independent outcome in children following severe head injury is associated with higher levels of CPP. The ability to tolerate different levels of CPP may be related to age, and therefore any such surgical trial would need a carefully defined protocol so that the potential benefit of such a treatment is maximized.