Progressive hemorrhage after head trauma: predictors and consequences of the evolving injury

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Object. Progressive intracranial hemorrhage after head injury is often observed on serial computerized tomography (CT) scans but its significance is uncertain. In this study, patients in whom two CT scans were obtained within 24 hours of injury were analyzed to determine the incidence, risk factors, and clinical significance of progressive hemorrhagic injury (PHI).

Methods. The diagnosis of PHI was determined by comparing the first and second CT scans and was categorized as epidural hematoma (EDH), subdural hematoma (SDH), intraparenchymal contusion or hematoma (IPCH), or subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). Potential risk factors, the daily mean intracranial pressure (ICP), and cerebral perfusion pressure were analyzed. In a cohort of 142 patients (mean age 34 ± 14 years; median Glasgow Coma Scale score of 8, range 3–15; male/female ratio 4.3:1), the mean time from injury to first CT scan was 2 ± 1.6 hours and between first and second CT scans was 6.9 ± 3.6 hours. A PHI was found in 42.3% of patients overall and in 48.6% of patients who underwent scanning within 2 hours of injury. Of the 60 patients with PHI, 87% underwent their first CT scan within 2 hours of injury and in only one with PHI was the first CT scan obtained more than 6 hours postinjury. The likelihood of PHI for a given lesion was 51% for IPCH, 22% for EDH, 17% for SAH, and 11% for SDH. Of the 46 patients who underwent craniotomy for hematoma evacuation, 24% did so after the second CT scan because of findings of PHI. Logistic regression was used to identify male sex (p = 0.01), older age (p = 0.01), time from injury to first CT scan (p = 0.02), and initial partial thromboplastin time (PTT) (p = 0.02) as the best predictors of PHI. The percentage of patients with mean daily ICP greater than 20 mm Hg was higher in those with PHI compared with those without PHI. The 6-month postinjury outcome was similar in the two patient groups.

Conclusions. Early progressive hemorrhage occurs in almost 50% of head-injured patients who undergo CT scanning within 2 hours of injury, it occurs most frequently in cerebral contusions, and it is associated with ICP elevations. Male sex, older age, time from injury to first CT scan, and PTT appear to be key determinants of PHI. Early repeated CT scanning is indicated in patients with nonsurgically treated hemorrhage revealed on the first CT scan.

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Contributor Notes

Address reprint requests to: Daniel F. Kelly, M.D., Division of Neurosurgery, Rm 18–218, Box 957039, Los Angeles, California 90095–7039. email: dfkelly@ucla.edu.
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