Hypothermia on admission in patients with severe brain injury

Guy L Clifton, Emmy R Miller, Sung C Choi, Harvey S Levin, Stephen McCauley, Kenneth R Smith, J Paul Muizelaar, Donald W Marion, Thomas G Luerssen
Journal of Neurotrauma 2002, 19 (3): 293-301
Data from the "National Acute Brain Injury Study: Hypothermia" were examined to identify the impact of hypothermia on admission. In all patients, temperature was measured at randomization using bladder catheters with thermistors. Patients assigned to hypothermia were cooled using fluid-circulating pads. Outcome was assessed at 6 months using the dichotomized Glasgow Outcome Scale (good outcome = good recovery/moderate disability; poor outcome = severe disability/vegetative/dead). One-hundred and two patients (hypothermia, 62; normothermia, 40) were hypothermic on admission (< or =35.0 degrees C). Hypothermia-on-admission patients assigned to normothermia (n = 40) had a 78% poor outcome, and normothermia-on-admission patients assigned to normothermia had a 52% poor outcome (p < 0.004). Hypothermia-on-admission patients assigned to hypothermia had a lower percentage of poor outcomes than those assigned to normothermia (hypothermia, 61%; normothermia, 78%; p = 0.09). Patients over 45 years of age had an adverse effect of hypothermia regardless of admission temperature due to medical complications. Patients who were hypothermic on admission, age < or = 45 years (n = 81), and assigned to hypothermia had a significantly lower percentage of poor outcomes than those assigned to normothermia (hypothermia, 52%; normothermia, 76%; p = 0.02). Factors associated with hypothermia on admission were increased age, prehospital hypotension, smaller size, positive blood alcohol, larger volume of pre-hospital fluids, slightly higher injury severity, and winter enrollment The treatment effect was found in all of the four centers, which randomized the majority (80%) of the patients. It is unclear whether the improved outcome when hypothermia is maintained is a beneficial effect of very early hypothermia induction or an adverse effect of permitting the patients to rewarm passively.

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