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Fartein Velle, Anders Lewén, Timothy Howells, Per Enblad and Pelle Nilsson


Refractory intracranial pressure (ICP) hypertension following traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a severe condition that requires potentially harmful treatment strategies such as barbiturate coma. However, the use of barbiturates may be restricted due to concerns about inducing multiorgan system complications related to the therapy. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the outcome and occurrence of treatment-related complications to barbiturate coma treatment in children with refractory intracranial hypertension (RICH) due to TBI in a modern multimodality neurointensive care unit (NICU).


The authors conducted a retrospective cohort study of 21 children ≤ 16 years old who were treated in their NICU between 2005 and 2015 with barbiturate coma for RICH following TBI. Demographic and clinical data were acquired from patient records and physiological data from digital monitoring system files.


The median age of these 21 children was 14 years (range 2–16 years) and at admission the median Glasgow Coma Scale score was 7 (range 4–8). Barbiturate coma treatment was added due to RICH at a median of 46 hours from trauma and had a median duration of 107 hours. The onset of barbiturate coma resulted in lower ICP values, lower pulse amplitudes on the ICP curve, and decreased amount of A-waves. No major disturbances in blood gases, liver and kidney function, or secondary insults were observed during this period. Outcome 1 year later revealed a median Glasgow Outcome Scale score of 5 (good recovery), however on the King’s Outcome Scale for Childhood Head Injury, the median was 4a (moderate disability).


The results of this study indicate that barbiturate coma, when used in a modern NICU, is an effective means of lowering ICP without causing concomitant severe side effects in children with RICH and was compatible with good long-term outcome.

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Carolina Samuelsson, Timothy Howells, Eva Kumlien, Per Enblad, Lars Hillered and Elisabeth Ronne-Engström


The aim of this study was to explore the relationship between hemodynamics (intracranial and systemic) and brain tissue energy metabolism, and between hemodynamics and glutamate (Glt)-glutamine (Gln) cycle activity.


Brain interstitial levels of lactate, pyruvate, Glt, and Gln were prospectively monitored in the neurointensive care unit for more than 3600 hours using intracerebral microdialysis in 33 patients with subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). Intracranial pressure (ICP), mean arterial blood pressure, and cerebral perfusion pressure (CPP) were recorded using a digitalized system.


Interstitial Gln and pyruvate correlated with CPP (r = 0.25 and 0.24, respectively). Intracranial pressure negatively correlated with Gln (r = −0.29) and the Gln/Glt ratio (r = –0.40). Levels of Gln and pyruvate and the Gln/Glt ratio were higher and levels of Glt and lactate and the lactate/pyruvate ratio were lower during periods of decreased ICP (≤ 10 mm Hg) as compared with values in periods of elevated ICP (> 10 mm Hg). In 3 patients, a poor clinical condition was attributed to high ICP levels (range 15–25 mm Hg). When CSF drainage was increased and the ICP was lowered to 10 mm Hg, there was an instantaneous sharp increase in interstitial Glt and pyruvate in these 3 patients.


Increasing interstitial Gln and pyruvate levels appear to be favorable signs associated with improved CPP and low ICP. The authors suggest that this pattern indicates an energy metabolic situation allowing augmented astrocytic energy metabolism with accelerated Glt uptake and Gln synthesis. Moreover, their data raised the question of whether patients with SAH and moderately elevated ICP (15–20 mm Hg) would benefit from CSF drainage at lower pressure levels than what is usually indicated in current clinical protocols.

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Elham Rostami, Henrik Engquist, Timothy Howells, Ulf Johnson, Elisabeth Ronne-Engström, Pelle Nilsson, Lars Hillered, Anders Lewén and Per Enblad


Delayed cerebral ischemia (DCI) following subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) is one of the major contributors to poor outcome. It is crucial to be able to detect early signs of DCI to prevent its occurrence. The objective of this study was to determine if low cerebral blood flow (CBF) measurements and pathological microdialysis parameters measured at the bedside can be observed early in patients with SAH who later developed DCI.


The authors included 30 patients with severe SAH. The CBF measurements were performed at Day 0–3 after disease onset, using bedside xenon-CT. Interstitial glucose, lactate, pyruvate, glycerol, and glutamate were measured using microdialysis.


Nine of 30 patients developed DCI. Patients with DCI showed significantly lower global and regional CBF, and lactate was significantly increased in these patients. A high lactate/pyruvate ratio was also detected in patients with DCI.


Early low CBF measurements and a high lactate and lactate/pyruvate ratio may be early warning signs of the risk of developing DCI. The clinical value of these findings needs to be confirmed in larger studies.

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R. Loch Macdonald

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Peter J. D. Andrews, Derek H. Sleeman, Patrick F. X. Statham, Andrew McQuatt, Vincent Corruble, Patricia A. Jones, Timothy P. Howells and Carol S. A. Macmillan

Object. Decision tree analysis highlights patient subgroups and critical values in variables assessed. Importantly, the results are visually informative and often present clear clinical interpretation about risk factors faced by patients in these subgroups. The aim of this prospective study was to compare results of logistic regression with those of decision tree analysis of an observational, head-injury data set, including a wide range of secondary insults and 12-month outcomes.

Methods. One hundred twenty-four adult head-injured patients were studied during their stay in an intensive care unit by using a computerized data collection system. Verified values falling outside threshold limits were analyzed according to insult grade and duration with the aid of logistic regression. A decision tree was automatically produced from root node to target classes (Glasgow Outcome Scale [GOS] score).

Among 69 patients, in whom eight insult categories could be assessed, outcome at 12 months was analyzed using logistic regression to determine the relative influence of patient age, admission Glasgow Coma Scale score, Injury Severity Score (ISS), pupillary response on admission, and insult duration. The most significant predictors of mortality in this patient set were duration of hypotensive, pyrexic, and hypoxemic insults. When good and poor outcomes were compared, hypotensive insults and pupillary response on admission were significant.

Using decision tree analysis, the authors found that hypotension and low cerebral perfusion pressure (CPP) are the best predictors of death, with a 9.2% improvement in predictive accuracy (PA) over that obtained by simply predicting the largest outcome category as the outcome for each patient. Hypotension was a significant predictor of poor outcome (GOS Score 1–3). Low CPP, patient age, hypocarbia, and pupillary response were also good predictors of outcome (good/poor), with a 5.1% improvement in PA. In certain subgroups of patients pyrexia was a predictor of good outcome.

Conclusions. Decision tree analysis confirmed some of the results of logistic regression and challenged others. This investigation shows that there is knowledge to be gained from analyzing observational data with the aid of decision tree analysis.