Effect of intracranial pressure monitoring and aggressive treatment on mortality in severe head injury

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✓ During 1977–1978, 127 patients with severe head injury were admitted and underwent intracranial pressure (ICP) monitoring. All patients had Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) scores of 7 or less. All received identical initial treatment according to a standardized protocol. The patients' average age was 29 years; 60% had multiple trauma, and 35% needed emergency intracranial operations. Treatment for elevations of ICP was begun when ICP rose to 20 to 25 mm Hg, and included mannitol therapy and drainage of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) when possible. Forty-three patients (34%) had ICP greater than or equal to 25 mm Hg; of these, 36 (84%) died. The mortality rate of the entire group was 46%.

During 1979–1980, 106 patients with severe head injury were admitted and underwent ICP monitoring. Their average age was 29 years; 51% had multiple trauma, and 31% underwent emergency intracranial surgery. All patients received the same standardized protocol as the previous series, with the exception of the treatment of ICP. In this present series: if ICP was 15 mm Hg or less (normal ICP), patients were continued on hyperventilation, steroids, and intensive care; if ICP was 16 to 24 mm Hg, mannitol was administered and CSF was drained; if ICP was 25 mm Hg or greater, the patients were randomized into a controlled barbiturate therapy study. Twenty-six patients (25%) had ICP's of 25 mm Hg or greater, compared to 34% in the previous series (p < 0.05), and 18 of these 26 patients (69%) died. The overall mortality for this current series was 28% compared to 46% in the previous series (p < 0.0005).

This study reconfirms the high mortality rate if ICP is 25 mm Hg or greater; however, the data also document that early aggressive treatment based on ICP monitoring significantly lessens the incidence of ICP of 25 mm Hg or greater and reduces the overall mortality rate of severe head injury.

Article Information

Address reprint requests to: Thomas G. Saul, M.D., Mayfield Neurological Institute of Cincinnati, Inc., 506 Oak Street, Cincinnati, Ohio 45219.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.



  • View in gallery

    Age distribution of the patients in Series I (left block of each pair) and Series II (right block of each pair).

  • View in gallery

    Summary of Glasgow Coma Scale scores of patients in Series I and Series II.



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