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Concept: Traumatic brain injury

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Background The effect of decompressive craniectomy on clinical outcomes in patients with refractory traumatic intracranial hypertension remains unclear. Methods From 2004 through 2014, we randomly assigned 408 patients, 10 to 65 years of age, with traumatic brain injury and refractory elevated intracranial pressure (>25 mm Hg) to undergo decompressive craniectomy or receive ongoing medical care. The primary outcome was the rating on the Extended Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS-E) (an 8-point scale, ranging from death to “upper good recovery” [no injury-related problems]) at 6 months. The primary-outcome measure was analyzed with an ordinal method based on the proportional-odds model. If the model was rejected, that would indicate a significant difference in the GOS-E distribution, and results would be reported descriptively. Results The GOS-E distribution differed between the two groups (P<0.001). The proportional-odds assumption was rejected, and therefore results are reported descriptively. At 6 months, the GOS-E distributions were as follows: death, 26.9% among 201 patients in the surgical group versus 48.9% among 188 patients in the medical group; vegetative state, 8.5% versus 2.1%; lower severe disability (dependent on others for care), 21.9% versus 14.4%; upper severe disability (independent at home), 15.4% versus 8.0%; moderate disability, 23.4% versus 19.7%; and good recovery, 4.0% versus 6.9%. At 12 months, the GOS-E distributions were as follows: death, 30.4% among 194 surgical patients versus 52.0% among 179 medical patients; vegetative state, 6.2% versus 1.7%; lower severe disability, 18.0% versus 14.0%; upper severe disability, 13.4% versus 3.9%; moderate disability, 22.2% versus 20.1%; and good recovery, 9.8% versus 8.4%. Surgical patients had fewer hours than medical patients with intracranial pressure above 25 mm Hg after randomization (median, 5.0 vs. 17.0 hours; P<0.001) but had a higher rate of adverse events (16.3% vs. 9.2%, P=0.03). Conclusions At 6 months, decompressive craniectomy in patients with traumatic brain injury and refractory intracranial hypertension resulted in lower mortality and higher rates of vegetative state, lower severe disability, and upper severe disability than medical care. The rates of moderate disability and good recovery were similar in the two groups. (Funded by the Medical Research Council and others; RESCUEicp Current Controlled Trials number, ISRCTN66202560 .).

Concepts: Clinical trial, Traumatic brain injury, Intracranial pressure, Intracranial hemorrhage, Neurotrauma, Brain herniation, Persistent vegetative state, Decompressive craniectomy

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Background Intracranial-pressure monitoring is considered the standard of care for severe traumatic brain injury and is used frequently, but the efficacy of treatment based on monitoring in improving the outcome has not been rigorously assessed. Methods We conducted a multicenter, controlled trial in which 324 patients 13 years of age or older who had severe traumatic brain injury and were being treated in intensive care units (ICUs) in Bolivia or Ecuador were randomly assigned to one of two specific protocols: guidelines-based management in which a protocol for monitoring intraparenchymal intracranial pressure was used (pressure-monitoring group) or a protocol in which treatment was based on imaging and clinical examination (imaging-clinical examination group). The primary outcome was a composite of survival time, impaired consciousness, and functional status at 3 months and 6 months and neuropsychological status at 6 months; neuropsychological status was assessed by an examiner who was unaware of protocol assignment. This composite measure was based on performance across 21 measures of functional and cognitive status and calculated as a percentile (with 0 indicating the worst performance, and 100 the best performance). Results There was no significant between-group difference in the primary outcome, a composite measure based on percentile performance across 21 measures of functional and cognitive status (score, 56 in the pressure-monitoring group vs. 53 in the imaging-clinical examination group; P=0.49). Six-month mortality was 39% in the pressure-monitoring group and 41% in the imaging-clinical examination group (P=0.60). The median length of stay in the ICU was similar in the two groups (12 days in the pressure-monitoring group and 9 days in the imaging-clinical examination group; P=0.25), although the number of days of brain-specific treatments (e.g., administration of hyperosmolar fluids and the use of hyperventilation) in the ICU was higher in the imaging-clinical examination group than in the pressure-monitoring group (4.8 vs. 3.4, P=0.002). The distribution of serious adverse events was similar in the two groups. Conclusions For patients with severe traumatic brain injury, care focused on maintaining monitored intracranial pressure at 20 mm Hg or less was not shown to be superior to care based on imaging and clinical examination. (Funded by the National Institutes of Health and others; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01068522 .).

Concepts: Psychology, Clinical trial, Brain, Traumatic brain injury, Intensive care medicine, Intracranial pressure, Adverse event, Intracranial hemorrhage

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Background Whether brain imaging can identify patients who are most likely to benefit from therapies for acute ischemic stroke and whether endovascular thrombectomy improves clinical outcomes in such patients remains unclear. Methods In this study, we randomly assigned patients within 8 hours after the onset of large-vessel, anterior-circulation strokes to undergo mechanical embolectomy (Merci Retriever or Penumbra System) or receive standard care. All patients underwent pretreatment computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging of the brain. Randomization was stratified according to whether the patient had a favorable penumbral pattern (substantial salvageable tissue and small infarct core) or a nonpenumbral pattern (large core or small or absent penumbra). We assessed outcomes using the 90-day modified Rankin scale, ranging from 0 (no symptoms) to 6 (dead). Results Among 118 eligible patients, the mean age was 65.5 years, the mean time to enrollment was 5.5 hours, and 58% had a favorable penumbral pattern. Revascularization in the embolectomy group was achieved in 67% of the patients. Ninety-day mortality was 21%, and the rate of symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage was 4%; neither rate differed across groups. Among all patients, mean scores on the modified Rankin scale did not differ between embolectomy and standard care (3.9 vs. 3.9, P=0.99). Embolectomy was not superior to standard care in patients with either a favorable penumbral pattern (mean score, 3.9 vs. 3.4; P=0.23) or a nonpenumbral pattern (mean score, 4.0 vs. 4.4; P=0.32). In the primary analysis of scores on the 90-day modified Rankin scale, there was no interaction between the pretreatment imaging pattern and treatment assignment (P=0.14). Conclusions A favorable penumbral pattern on neuroimaging did not identify patients who would differentially benefit from endovascular therapy for acute ischemic stroke, nor was embolectomy shown to be superior to standard care. (Funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; MR RESCUE ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00389467 .).

Concepts: Brain, Stroke, Traumatic brain injury, Medical imaging, Magnetic resonance imaging, Modified Rankin Scale, Radiology, Embolism

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In their Perspective, Donald A. Redelmeier and Sheharyar Raza discuss the significance of Seena Fazel and colleagues' longitudinal study of traumatic brain injury (TBI)-associated outcomes.

Concepts: Longitudinal study, Traumatic brain injury, Sociology, Repeated measures design, Concussion

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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the leading cause of disability and mortality in children and young adults worldwide. It remains unclear, however, how TBI in childhood and adolescence is associated with adult mortality, psychiatric morbidity, and social outcomes.

Concepts: Medicine, Longitudinal study, Brain, Traumatic brain injury, Childhood, Coming of age

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Traumatic brain injury (TBI) has long been recognized as the leading cause of traumatic death and disability. Tremendous advances in surgical and intensive care unit management of the primary injury, including maintaining adequate oxygenation, controlling intracranial pressure, and ensuring proper cerebral perfusion pressure, have resulted in reduced mortality. However, the secondary injury phase of TBI is a prolonged pathogenic process characterized by neuroinflammation, excitatory amino acids, free radicals, and ion imbalance. There are no approved therapies to directly address these underlying processes. Here, we present a case that was intentionally treated with substantial amounts of omega-3 fatty acids (n-3FA) to provide the nutritional foundation for the brain to begin the healing process following severe TBI. Recent animal research supports the use of n-3FA, and clinical experience suggests that benefits may be possible from substantially and aggressively adding n-3FA to optimize the nutritional foundation of severe TBI patients and must be in place if the brain is to be given the opportunity to repair itself to the best possible extent. Administration early in the course of treatment, in the emergency department or sooner, has the potential to improve outcomes from this potentially devastating public health problem.

Concepts: Nutrition, Fatty acid, Traumatic brain injury, Intracranial pressure, Omega-3 fatty acid, Neurology, Cerebral perfusion pressure, Neurotrauma

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Human umbilical tissue-derived cells (hUTC) represent an attractive cell source and a potential technology for neurorestoration and improvement of functional outcomes following stroke. Male Wistar rats were subjected to a transient middle cerebral artery occlusion (tMCAo) and were intravenously administered hUTC (N = 11) or vehicle (N = 10) 48 hrs after stroke. White matter and vascular reorganization was monitored over a 12-week period using MRI and histopathology. MRI results were correlated with neurological functional and histology outcomes to demonstrate that MRI can be a useful tool to measure structural recovery after stroke. MRI revealed a significant reduction in the ventricular volume expansion and improvement in cerebral blood flow (CBF) in the hUTC treated group compared to vehicle treated group. Treatment with hUTC resulted in histological and functional improvements as evidenced by enhanced expression of vWF and synaptophysin, and improved outcomes on behavioral tests. Significant correlations were detected between MRI ventricular volumes and histological lesion volume as well as number of apoptotic cells. A positive correlation was also observed between MRI CBF or cerebral blood volume (CBV) and histological synaptic density. Neurological functional tests were also significantly correlated with MRI ventricular volume and CBV. Our data demonstrated that MRI measurements can detect the effect of hUTC therapy on the brain reorganization and exhibited positive correlation with histological measurements of brain structural changes and functional behavioral tests after stroke. MRI ventricular volumes provided the most sensitive index in monitoring brain remodeling and treatment effects and highly correlated with histological and functional measurements.

Concepts: Medicine, Brain, Blood, Spearman's rank correlation coefficient, Traumatic brain injury, Cerebrum, Correlation and dependence, Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient

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BACKGROUND: Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) secondary to blast exposure is the most common battlefield injury in Southwest Asia. There has been little prospective work in the combat setting to test the efficacy of new countermeasures. The goal of this study was to compare the efficacy of N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) versus placebo on the symptoms associated with blast exposure mTBI in a combat setting. METHODS: This study was a randomized double blind, placebo-controlled study that was conducted on active duty service members at a forward deployed field hospital in Iraq. All symptomatic U.S. service members who were exposed to significant ordnance blast and who met the criteria for mTBI were offered participation in the study and 81 individuals agreed to participate. Individuals underwent a baseline evaluation and then were randomly assigned to receive either N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) or placebo for seven days. Each subject was re-evaluated at 3 and 7 days. Outcome measures were the presence of the following sequelae of mTBI: dizziness, hearing loss, headache, memory loss, sleep disturbances, and neurocognitive dysfunction. The resolution of these symptoms seven days after the blast exposure was the main outcome measure in this study. Logistic regression on the outcome of ‘no day 7 symptoms’ indicated that NAC treatment was significantly better than placebo (OR = 3.6, p = 0.006). Secondary analysis revealed subjects receiving NAC within 24 hours of blast had an 86% chance of symptom resolution with no reported side effects versus 42% for those seen early who received placebo. CONCLUSION: This study, conducted in an active theatre of war, demonstrates that NAC, a safe pharmaceutical countermeasure, has beneficial effects on the severity and resolution of sequelae of blast induced mTBI. This is the first demonstration of an effective short term countermeasure for mTBI. Further work on long term outcomes and the potential use of NAC in civilian mTBI is warranted. TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00822263.

Concepts: Brain, Medical terms, Traumatic brain injury, Effectiveness, Term, Post-concussion syndrome, Concussion, BLAST

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Woodpeckers experience forces up to 1200-1400 g while pecking. It is assumed due to evolutionary adaptations, the woodpecker is immune to brain injury. This assumption has led to the use of the woodpecker as a model in the development of sports safety equipment such as football helmets. However, it is unknown at this time if the woodpecker brain develops neuro-trauma in relation to the high g-forces experienced during pecking. The brains of 10 ethanol preserved woodpeckers and 5 ethanol preserved red-winged black bird experimental controls were examined using Gallyas silver stain and anti-phospho-tau. The results demonstrated perivascular and white matter tract silver-positive deposits in eight out of the 10 woodpecker brains. The tau positive accumulations were seen in white matter tracts in 2 of the 3 woodpeckers examined. No staining was identified in control birds. The negative staining of controls birds contrasted with the diffuse positive staining woodpecker sections suggest the possibility that pecking may induce the accumulation of tau in the woodpecker brain. Further research is needed to better understand the relationship.

Concepts: Traumatic brain injury, Bird, White matter, Staining, Silver stain, Negative stain, Woodpecker, Phosphotungstic acid

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Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), or concussion, is the most common type of traumatic brain injury. With mTBI comes symptoms that include headaches, fatigue, depression, anxiety and irritability, as well as impaired cognitive function. Symptom resolution is thought to occur within 3 months post-injury, with the exception of a small percentage of individuals who are said to experience persistent post-concussion syndrome. The number of individuals who experience persistent symptoms appears to be low despite clear evidence of longer-term pathophysiological changes resulting from mTBI. In light of the incongruency between these longer-term changes in brain pathology and the number of individuals with longer-term mTBI-related symptoms, particularly impaired cognitive function, we performed a scoping review of the literature that behaviourally assessed short- and long-term cognitive function in individuals with a single mTBI, with the goal of identifying the impact of a single concussion on cognitive function in the chronic stage post-injury. CINAHL, Embase, and Medline/Ovid were searched July 2015 for studies related to concussion and cognitive impairment. Data relating to the presence/absence of cognitive impairment were extracted from 45 studies meeting our inclusion criteria. Results indicate that, in contrast to the prevailing view that most symptoms of concussion are resolved within 3 months post-injury, approximately half of individuals with a single mTBI demonstrate long-term cognitive impairment. Study limitations notwithstanding, these findings highlight the need to carefully examine the long-term implications of a single mTBI.

Concepts: Traumatic brain injury, Symptoms, Mind, Fatigue, Post-concussion syndrome, Concussion, Second-impact syndrome, Dementia pugilistica