A conceptual approach to managing severe traumatic brain injury in a time of uncertainty

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Current controversies in the literature suggest that a reassessment of the current management of severe traumatic brain injury (sTBI) is necessary. This article presents a conceptual framework toward individualizing sTBI treatment with respect to targeting thresholds and strategies on the basis of known physiologic processes and available monitors. Intracranial pressure (ICP) is modeled as an epiphenomenon of cerebral compliance and herniation tendency, as well as cerebral ischemia. By combining serial neurological examinations, imaging studies, and ICP measurements (values, trends, and area-under-the-curve calculations) over time, evidence can be accrued on the necessity of maintaining ICP at a given threshold in the realm of physical changes in the brain. Similarly, by collecting and trending clinical, imaging, and monitoring data on the status of cerebral blood flow, the balance of oxygen consumption and delivery, and the status of cerebral static pressure autoregulation, and analyzing them with respect to measured parameters, such as blood pressure, ICP, and cerebral perfusion pressure, one can attempt to fine-tune these variables as well. Such individualization of management optimizes the possibility of successfully treating demonstrated pathophysiological processes while avoiding unnecessary interventions and treatment toxicity. Monitor values must not be seen as targets but rather as indicators of targetable pathology.

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