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Jacob Cherian, Robert L. Atmar and Shankar P. Gopinath

OBJECT

Patients with cryptococcal meningitis often develop symptomatic intracranial hypertension. The need for permanent CSF diversion in these cases remains unclear.

METHODS

Cases of cryptococcal meningitis over a 5-year period were reviewed from a single, large teaching hospital. Sources of identification included ICD-9 codes, operative logs, and microscopy laboratory records.

RESULTS

Fifty cases of cryptococcal meningitis were identified. Ninety-eight percent (49/50) of patients were HIV positive. Opening pressure on initial lumbar puncture diagnosing cryptococcal meningitis was elevated (> 25 cm H2O) in 33 cases and normal (≤ 25 cm H2O) in 17 cases. Thirty-eight patients ultimately developed elevated opening pressure over a follow-up period ranging from weeks to years.

Serial lumbar punctures for relief of intracranial hypertension were performed in 29 cases. Thirteen of these patients ultimately had shunting procedures performed after failing to improve clinically. Two factors were significantly associated with the need for shunting: patients undergoing shunt placement were more likely to be women (5/13 vs 0/16; p = 0.01) and to have a pattern of increasing CSF cryptococcal antigen (10/13 vs 3/16 cases; p = 0.003). All patients re-presenting with mycological relapse either underwent or were offered shunt placement.

CONCLUSIONS

Neurosurgeons are often asked to consider CSF diversion in cases of cryptococcal meningitis complicated by intracranial hypertension. Most patients do well with serial lumbar punctures combined with antifungal therapy. When required, shunting generally provided sustained relief from intracranial hypertension symptoms. Ventriculoperitoneal shunts are the favored method of diversion. To the authors’ knowledge, the present study is the largest series on diversionary shunts in primarily HIV-positive patients with this problem.

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

OBJECTIVE

Hypernatremia is independently associated with increased mortality in critically ill patients. Few studies have evaluated the impact of hypernatremia on early mortality in patients with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) treated in a neurocritical care unit.

METHODS

A retrospective review of patients with severe TBI (admission Glasgow Coma Scale score ≤ 8) treated in a single neurocritical care unit between 1986 and 2012 was performed. Patients with at least 3 serum sodium values were selected for the study. Patients with diabetes insipidus and those with hypernatremia on admission were excluded. The highest serum sodium level during the hospital stay was recorded, and hypernatremia was classified as none (≤ 150 mEq/L), mild (151–155 mEq/L), moderate (156–160 mEq/L), and severe (> 160 mEq/L). Multivariate Cox regression analysis was performed to determine independent predictors of early mortality.

RESULTS

A total of 588 patients with severe TBI were studied. The median number of serum sodium measurements for patients in this study was 17 (range 3–190). No hypernatremia was seen in 371 patients (63.1%), mild hypernatremia in 77 patients (13.1%), moderate hypernatremia in 50 patients (8.5%), and severe hypernatremia in 90 patients (15.3%). Hypernatremia was detected within the 1st week of admission in 79.3% of patients (n = 172), with the majority of patients (46%) being diagnosed within 72 hours after admission. Acute kidney injury, defined as a rise in creatinine of ≥ 0.3 mg/dl, was observed in 162 patients (27.6%) and was significantly associated with the degree of hypernatremia (p < 0.001). At discharge, 148 patients (25.2%) had died. Hypernatremia was a significant independent predictor of mortality (hazard ratios for mild: 3.4, moderate: 4.4, and severe: 8.4; p < 0.001). Survival analysis showed significantly lower survival rates for patients with greater degrees of hypernatremia (log-rank test, p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS

Hypernatremia after admission in patients with severe TBI was independently associated with greater risk of early mortality. In addition to severe hypernatremia, mild and moderate hypernatremia were significantly associated with increased early mortality in patients with severe TBI.

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

OBJECTIVE

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.

METHODS

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.

RESULTS

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.

CONCLUSIONS

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.

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

OBJECTIVE

Few studies have reported on changes in quantitative cerebral blood flow (CBF) after decompressive craniectomy and the impact of these measures on clinical outcome. The aim of the present study was to evaluate global and regional CBF patterns in relation to cerebral hemodynamic parameters in patients after decompressive craniectomy for traumatic brain injury (TBI).

METHODS

The authors studied clinical and imaging data of patients who underwent xenon-enhanced CT (XeCT) CBF studies after decompressive craniectomy for evacuation of a mass lesion and/or to relieve intractable intracranial hypertension. Cerebral hemodynamic parameters prior to decompressive craniectomy and at the time of the XeCT CBF study were recorded. Global and regional CBF after decompressive craniectomy was measured using XeCT. Regional cortical CBF was measured under the craniectomy defect as well as for each cerebral hemisphere. Associations between CBF, cerebral hemodynamics, and early clinical outcome were assessed.

RESULTS

Twenty-seven patients were included in this study. The majority of patients (88.9%) had an initial Glasgow Coma Scale score ≤ 8. The median time between injury and decompressive surgery was 9 hours. Primary decompressive surgery (within 24 hours) was performed in the majority of patients (n = 18, 66.7%). Six patients had died by the time of discharge. XeCT CBF studies were performed a median of 51 hours after decompressive surgery. The mean global CBF after decompressive craniectomy was 49.9 ± 21.3 ml/100 g/min. The mean cortical CBF under the craniectomy defect was 46.0 ± 21.7 ml/100 g/min. Patients who were dead at discharge had significantly lower postcraniectomy CBF under the craniectomy defect (30.1 ± 22.9 vs 50.6 ± 19.6 ml/100 g/min; p = 0.039). These patients also had lower global CBF (36.7 ± 23.4 vs 53.7 ± 19.7 ml/100 g/min; p = 0.09), as well as lower CBF for the ipsilateral (33.3 ± 27.2 vs 51.8 ± 19.7 ml/100 g/min; p = 0.07) and contralateral (36.7 ± 19.2 vs 55.2 ± 21.9 ml/100 g/min; p = 0.08) hemispheres, but these differences were not statistically significant. The patients who died also had significantly lower cerebral perfusion pressure (52 ± 17.4 vs 75.3 ± 10.9 mm Hg; p = 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS

In the presence of global hypoperfusion, regional cerebral hypoperfusion under the craniectomy defect is associated with early mortality in patients with TBI. Further study is needed to determine the value of incorporating CBF studies into clinical decision making for severe traumatic brain injury.

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

Object

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.

Methods

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.

Results

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.

Conclusions

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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Shankar P. Gopinath, Claudia S. Robertson, Robert G. Grossman and Britton Chance

✓ Near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) of the cerebral hemispheres, applied transcranially through the intact scalp and skull, was evaluated for its ability to detect the presence of an intracranial hematoma in 46 head-injured patients. In 40 patients intracranial hematomas (22 subdural, 10 epidural, eight intracerebral) were identified on computerized tomography (CT); in all 40 cases, NIRS demonstrated greater absorption of light at 760 nm on the side of the hematoma. The mean difference in optical density (OD) between the hemisphere with the hematoma and the normal hemisphere was 0.99 ± 0.30 for epidural hematomas, 0.87 ± 0.31 for subdural hematomas, but only 0.41 ± 0.11 for intracerebral hematomas. In 36 patients, the asymmetry in OD resolved after surgical evacuation of the hematoma or with spontaneous resorption of the hematoma. Four patients who developed postoperative or delayed hematomas exhibited persistence of the asymmetry in OD. Six patients had only diffuse injuries and exhibited only minor differences in OD between the hemispheres, similar to 10 patients in the control group with no head injury. It appears that NIRS is useful in the initial examination of the head-injured patient, as an adjunct to CT, and in following patients postoperatively in the intensive care unit.