Challenges of Delirium Management in Patients with Traumatic Brain Injury: From Pathophysiology to Clinical Practice

Shawniqua Williams Roberson, Mayur B Patel, Wojciech Dabrowski, E Wesley Ely, Cezary Pakulski, Katarzyna Kotfis
Current Neuropharmacology 2021 January 19
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) can initiate a very complex disease of the central nervous system (CNS) starting with the primary pathology of the inciting trauma and subsequent inflammatory and CNS tissue response. Delirium has long been regarded as an almost inevitable consequence of moderate to severe TBI, but more recently has been recognized as an organ dysfunction syndrome with potentially mitigating interventions. The diagnosis of delirium is independently associated with prolonged hospitalization, increased mortality and worse cognitive outcome across critically ill populations. Investigation of the unique problems and management challenges of TBI patients is needed to reduce the burden of delirium in this population. In this narrative review, possible etiologic mechanisms behind post-traumatic delirium are discussed, including primary injury to structures mediating arousal and attention and secondary injury due to progressive inflammatory destruction ofthe brain parenchyma. Other potential etiologic contributors include dysregulation of neurotransmission due to intravenous sedatives, seizures, organ failure, sleep cycle disruption or other delirium risk factors. Delirium screening canbe accomplished in TBI patients and presence of delirium portends worse outcomes. There is evidence that multicomponent care bundles including an analgesia-prioritized sedation algorithm, regular spontaneous awakening and breathing trials, protocolized delirium assessment, early mobility and family engagement can reduce the burden of ICU delirium. The aim of this review is to summarize the approach to delirium in TBI patients with an emphasis on pathogenesis and management. Emerging CNS-active drug therapies that show promise in preclinicalstudies are highlighted.

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