A clinical decision rule to predict intracranial hypertension in severe traumatic brain injury

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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.


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).


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.


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).

ABBREVIATIONS AUC = area under the curve; BEST TRIP = Benchmark Evidence from South American Trials: Treatment of Intracranial Pressure; CI = confidence interval; COBRIT = Citicoline Brain Injury Treatment Trial; DI = diffuse injury; GCS = Glasgow Coma Scale; ICP = intracranial pressure; TBI = traumatic brain injury.

Article Information

Correspondence Aziz S. Alali: University of Washington, Seattle, WA. aalali@uw.edu.

INCLUDE WHEN CITING Published online September 28, 2018; DOI: 10.3171/2018.4.JNS173166.

Disclosures The authors report no conflict of interest concerning the materials or methods used in this study or the findings specified in this paper.

© AANS, except where prohibited by US copyright law.






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