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Alan M. Haltiner, David W. Newell, Nancy R. Temkin, Sureyya S. Dikmen and H. Richard Winn

Object. The goals of this study were to determine if the use of phenytoin to prevent early posttraumatic seizures following head injury was associated with significant adverse side effects and also to determine if the reduction in early posttraumatic seizures after phenytoin administration was associated with a change in mortality rates in head-injured patients.

Methods. The authors performed a secondary analysis of the data obtained in a prospective double-blind placebo-controlled study of 404 patients who were randomly assigned to receive phenytoin or placebo for the prevention of early and late posttraumatic seizures. The incidence of adverse drug effects during the first 2 weeks of treatment, however, was low and not significantly different between the treated and placebo groups. Hypersensitivity reactions occurred in 0.6% of the patients in the phenytoin-treated group compared with 0% in the placebo group (p = 1.0) during week 1, and in 2.5% of phenytoin-treated compared with 0% of placebo-treated patients (p = 0.12) for the first 2 weeks of treatment. Mortality rates were also similar in both groups. Although the mortality rate was higher in patients who developed seizures, this increase was related to the greater severity of the injuries sustained by these patients at the time of the original trauma.

Conclusions. The results of this study indicate that the incidence of early posttraumatic seizure can be effectively reduced by prophylactic administration of phenytoin for 1 or 2 weeks without a significant increase in drug-related side effects. Reduction in posttraumatic seizure during the 1st week, however, was not associated with a reduction in the mortality rate.

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Nancy R. Temkin, Richard Holubkov, Joan E. Machamer, H. Richard Winn and Sureyya S. Dikmen

✓ A cohort of 514 hospitalized head-injury survivors was identified based on their injury and 448 (87%) of them were followed for 1 year. Comprehensive neurobehavioral testing was performed 1 month and 1 year after injury.

The authors developed predictions of six neuropsychological and two psychosocial outcomes 1 year after head injury. Prediction trees are presented for verbal IQ, Halstead's Impairment Index, and work status at 1 year. Early predictors of neurobehavioral outcome in survivors are similar to previously reported predictors of mortality. Extent (both depth and length) of coma and age are the medical and demographic variables most predictive of late outcome. Adding 1-month scores substantially improves prediction of neuropsychological variables.

The classification and regression tree is a useful technique for predicting long-term outcome in patients with head injury. The trees are simple enough to be used in a clinical setting and, especially with 1-month scores, predictions are accurate enough for clinical utility.

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Aziz S. Alali, Nancy Temkin, Jason Barber, Jim Pridgeon, Kelley Chaddock, Sureyya Dikmen, Peter Hendrickson, Walter Videtta, Silvia Lujan, Gustavo Petroni, Nahuel Guadagnoli, Zulma Urbina and Randall M. Chesnut

OBJECTIVE

While existing guidelines support the treatment of intracranial hypertension in severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), it is unclear when to suspect and initiate treatment for high intracranial pressure (ICP). The objective of this study was to derive a clinical decision rule that accurately predicts intracranial hypertension.

METHODS

Using Delphi methods, the authors identified a set of potential predictors of intracranial hypertension and a clinical decision rule a priori by consensus among a group of 43 neurosurgeons and intensivists who have extensive experience managing severe TBI without ICP monitoring. To validate these predictors, the authors used data from a Latin American trial (n = 150; BEST TRIP). To report on the performance of the rule, they calculated sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive values with 95% confidence intervals. In a secondary analysis, the rule was validated using data from a North American trial (n = 131; COBRIT).

RESULTS

The final predictors and the clinical decision rule were approved by 97% of participants in the consensus working group. The predictors are divided into major and minor criteria. High ICP would be considered suspected in the presence of 1 major or ≥ 2 minor criteria. Major criteria are: compressed cisterns (CT classification of Marshall diffuse injury [DI] III), midline shift > 5 mm (Marshall DI IV), or nonevacuated mass lesion. Minor criteria are: Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) motor score ≤ 4, pupillary asymmetry, abnormal pupillary reactivity, or Marshall DI II. The area under the curve for the logistic regression model that contains all the predictors was 0.86. When high ICP was defined as > 22 mm Hg, the decision rule performed with a sensitivity of 93.9% (95% CI 85.0%–98.3%), a specificity of 42.3% (95% CI 31.7%–53.6%), a positive predictive value of 55.5% (95% CI 50.7%–60.2%), and a negative predictive value of 90% (95% CI 77.1%–96.0%). The sensitivity of the clinical decision rule improved with higher ICP cutoffs up to a sensitivity of 100% when intracranial hypertension was defined as ICP > 30 mm Hg. Similar results were found in the North American cohort.

CONCLUSIONS

A simple clinical decision rule based on a combination of clinical and imaging findings was found to be highly sensitive in distinguishing patients with severe TBI who would suffer intracranial hypertension. It could be used to identify patients who require ICP monitoring in high-resource settings or start ICP-lowering treatment in environments where resource limitations preclude invasive monitoring.

Clinical trial registration no.: NCT02059941 (clinicaltrials.gov).

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Nancy R. Temkin, Sureyya S. Dikmen, Gail D. Anderson, Alan J. Wilensky, Mark D. Holmes, Wendy Cohen, David W. Newell, Pamela Nelson, Asaad Awan and H. Richard Winn

Object. Seizures frequently accompany moderate to severe traumatic brain injury. Phenytoin and carbamazepine are effective in preventing early, but not late, posttraumatic seizures. In this study the authors compare the safety and effectiveness of valproate with those of short-term phenytoin for prevention of seizures following traumatic brain injury.

Methods. The study was a randomized, double-blind, single-center, parallel-group clinical trial. Treatment began within 24 hours of injury. One hundred thirty-two patients at high risk for seizures were assigned to receive a 1-week course of phenytoin, 120 were assigned to receive a 1-month course of valproate, and 127 were assigned to receive a 6-month course of valproate. The cases were followed for up to 2 years.

The rates of early seizures were low and similar when using either valproate or phenytoin (1.5% in the phenytoin treatment group and 4.5% in the valproate arms of the study; p = 0.14, relative risk [RR] = 2.9, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.7–13.3). The rates of late seizures did not differ among treatment groups (15% in patients receiving the 1-week course of phenytoin, 16% in patients receiving the 1-month course of valproate, and 24% in those receiving the 6-month course of valproate; p = 0.19, RR = 1.4, 95% CI 0.8–2.4). The rates of mortality were not significantly different between treatment groups, but there was a trend toward a higher mortality rate in patients treated with valproate (7.2% in patients receiving phenytoin and 13.4% in those receiving valproate; p = 0.07, RR = 2.0, 95% CI 0.9–4.1). The incidence of serious adverse events, including coagulation problems and liver abnormalities, was similar in phenytoin- and valproate-treated patients.

Conclusions. Valproate therapy shows no benefit over short-term phenytoin therapy for prevention of early seizures and neither treatment prevents late seizures. There was a trend toward a higher mortality rate among valproate-treated patients. The lack of additional benefit and the potentially higher mortality rate suggest that valproate should not be routinely used for the prevention of posttraumatic seizures.