Thresholds for cerebral ischemia after severe head injury: Relationship with late CT findings and outcome

Marc L. Schröder, Jan Paul Muizelaar, A. John Kuta, Sung C. Choi

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41 Scopus citations


Cerebral ischemic insults occur in at least 30% of severely head injured patients at a very early stage following trauma and are associated with early death. To date, the threshold for ischemia of 18 mL/100 g/min used in human head injury studies has been adopted from animal studies (by temporary occlusion of the middle cerebral artery). Since the traumatized brain becomes more susceptible to irreversible damage if accompanied by ischemia one may question whether the threshold for ischemic vulnerability is higher than 18 mL/100 g/min. Cerebral ischemia can cause atrophy. Therefore, the authors obtained computerized tomography (CT) scans in 33 comatose head-injured patients (Glasgow Coma Score of 8 or less) at least 3 months following injury and compared ventricle sizes (as a reflection of atrophy) with cerebral blood flow (CBF) obtained within 4 h (average 2.3 ± 0.8 h) after injury. Ventricular measurements were performed in three fashions: the third ventricular size (cm), the bicaudate cerebral ventricular index (BCVI), and the hemispheric ventricular index (HCVI). No significant correlation was found between early CBF and any of the ventricle sizes. Applying a multiple correlation analysis with four independent parameters [CBF, CBF/time postinjury, CBF/(time postinjury)2, age], only age emerged as a significant indicator for predicting ventricle size (p < 0.001). We also compared CBF data, obtained within 4 h after trauma, from survivors at 3 months after injury (mean CBF of 32 mL/100 g/min) with CBF data from nonsurvivors (CBF 20 mL/100 g/min). The difference in CBF between survivors and nonsurvivors was significant at p < 0.001 (Wilcoxon rank-sum test). The proportion of patients with CBF less than or equal to 20 mL/100 g/min was 56% in the nonsurvivors and only 5% in survivors. The difference in the proportions was significant at p < 0.001 (chi-square test). We conclude that a measure of atrophy does not correlate with ultra-early CBF. However, based on the clear distinction between survivors and nonsurvivors, we suggest the threshold for ischemia after head injury be redefined as a CBF of 20 mL/100 g/min.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-23
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Neurotrauma
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • atrophy
  • cerebral blood flow
  • computed tomography
  • head injury
  • ischemia
  • outcome
  • threshold

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)


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