COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE
RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL
RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Pentobarbital versus thiopental in the treatment of refractory intracranial hypertension in patients with traumatic brain injury: a randomized controlled trial.

INTRODUCTION: Experimental research has demonstrated that the level of neuroprotection conferred by the various barbiturates is not equal. Until now no controlled studies have been conducted to compare their effectiveness, even though the Brain Trauma Foundation Guidelines recommend that such studies be undertaken. The objectives of the present study were to assess the effectiveness of pentobarbital and thiopental in terms of controlling refractory intracranial hypertension in patients with severe traumatic brain injury, and to evaluate the adverse effects of treatment.

METHODS: This was a prospective, randomized, cohort study comparing two treatments: pentobarbital and thiopental. Patients who had suffered a severe traumatic brain injury (Glasgow Coma Scale score after resuscitation < or = 8 points or neurological deterioration during the first week after trauma) and with refractory intracranial hypertension (intracranial pressure > 20 mmHg) first-tier measures, in accordance with the Brain Trauma Foundation Guidelines.

RESULTS: A total of 44 patients (22 in each group) were included over a 5-year period. There were no statistically significant differences in ' baseline characteristics, except for admission computed cranial tomography characteristics, using the Traumatic Coma Data Bank classification. Uncontrollable intracranial pressure occurred in 11 patients (50%) in the thiopental treatment group and in 18 patients (82%) in the pentobarbital group (P = 0.03). Under logistic regression analysis--undertaken in an effort to adjust for the cranial tomography characteristics, which were unfavourable for pentobarbital--thiopental was more effective than pentobarbital in terms of controlling intracranial pressure (odds ratio = 5.1, 95% confidence interval 1.2 to 21.9; P = 0.027). There were no significant differences between the two groups with respect to the incidence of arterial hypotension or infection.

CONCLUSIONS: Thiopental appeared to be more effective than pentobarbital in controlling intracranial hypertension refractory to first-tier measures. These findings should be interpreted with caution because of the imbalance in cranial tomography characteristics and the different dosages employed in the two arms of the study. The incidence of adverse effects was similar in both groups.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: (Trial registration: US Clinical Trials registry NCT00622570.).

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