Improved outcome after severe head injury with a new therapy based on principles for brain volume regulation and preserved microcirculation

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To assess the new "Lund therapy" of posttraumatic brain edema, based on principles for brain-volume regulation and improved microcirculation.


A prospective, nonrandomized outcome study over a 5-yr period on severely head-injured patients with increased intracranial pressure, comparing the results with a historical control group with the same selection criteria for patients who were treated according to conventional principles.


General intensive care unit of a university hospital.


Fifty-three consecutive head-injured patients with a Glasgow Coma Score of <8, and with increased intracranial pressure (>25 mm Hg), despite conventional treatment.


Interstitial fluid resorption was obtained by lowering intracapillary hydrostatic pressure, by preserving normal colloid osmotic pressure, and by maintaining a normovolemic (normal albumin/serum and hemoglobin/serum), not overtransfused patient. Intracapillary pressure was reduced by the combination of precapillary vasoconstriction (low-dose thiopental, dihydroergotamine) and reduction of mean arterial pressure, the latter attained with a beta1-antagonist (metoprolol 0.2 to 0.3 mg/kg/24 hrs iv) and an alpha2-agonist (clonidine 0.4 to 0.8 [micro sign]g/kg x 4 to 6 iv). Clonidine, in combination with normovolemia, also improves microcirculation by reducing catecholamines in plasma. Intracranial blood volume was reduced by arterial (low-dose thiopental sodium and dihydroergotamine) and large-vein (dihydroergotamine) vasoconstriction. The start dose of dihydroergotamine (maximum 0.9 [micro sign]g/kg/hr) was successively reduced toward discontinuation within 4 to 5 days.

Measurements and Main Results

There were 8% of patients who died and the neurologic conditions of 13% remained severely damaged, compared with 47% and 11%, respectively, for the control group.


The low mortality compared with previous outcome studies strongly indicates that this therapy improves outcome for severe head injuries. However, a randomized, controlled study is needed to reach general acceptance of this new therapy. (Crit Care Med 1998; 26:1881-1886)

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