Early hyperthermia after traumatic brain injury in children: risk factors, influence on length of stay, and effect on short-term neurologic status

J E Natale, J G Joseph, M A Helfaer, D H Shaffner
Critical Care Medicine 2000, 28 (7): 2608-15

OBJECTIVES: a) To determine the risk factors for early hyperthermia after traumatic brain injury in children; b) to identify the contribution of early hyperthermia to neurologic status at pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) discharge and to PICU length of stay in head-injured children.

STUDY DESIGN: Observational cohort study.

SETTING: PICU at a tertiary care, university medical center.

PATIENTS: Children (n = 117) admitted to a PICU from July 1995 to May 1997 with traumatic brain injury. These children had a median age of 5.4 yrs (3 wks to 15.2 yrs old), and 33.4% were girls.

MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Early hyperthermia (temperature >38.5 degrees C within the first 24 hrs of admission) occurred in 29.9% of patients admitted to the PICU with traumatic brain injury. Risk factors predicting early hyperthermia included Glasgow Coma Scale score in the emergency department < or =8, pediatric trauma score < or =8, cerebral edema or diffuse axonal injury on initial head computed tomography scan, admission blood glucose >150 mg/dL (8.2 mmol/L), admission white cell count >14,300 cells/mm3 (14.3 x 10(9) cells/L), and systolic hypotension. The presence of early hyperthermia significantly increased the risk for Glasgow Coma Scale score <13 at PICU discharge (odds ratio [OR] 9.7, 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.8, 24.4) and PICU stay > or =3 days (OR 13.8, CI 5.1, 37.5). When we used multiple logistic regression models including injury severity and hypotension, early hyperthermia remained an independent predictor of lower Glasgow Coma Scale score at PICU discharge (OR 4.7, CI 1.4, 15.6) and longer PICU length of stay (OR 8.5, CI 2.8, 25.6).

CONCLUSIONS: Early hyperthermia is independently associated with a measure of early neurologic status and resource utilization in children with traumatic brain injury serious enough to require PICU admission. These results support the prevention of hyperthermia in the management of traumatic brain injury in children. Further research is required to understand the mechanisms of this response and to identify appropriate preventive or therapeutic interventions.

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