Pre–Trauma Center Management of Intracranial Pressure in Severe Pediatric Traumatic Brain Injury

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Pre–trauma center care is a critical component in severe pediatric traumatic brain injury (TBI). For geographically large trauma catchment areas, optimizing increased intracranial pressure (ICP) management may potentially improve outcomes. This retrospective study examined ICP management in nontrauma centers and during interfacility transport to the trauma center.


Charts from a pediatric level I trauma center were reviewed for admissions between 2008 and 2013. Patients with a Glasgow Coma Scale score of 8 or less, head Abbreviated Injury Scale score of 3 or higher, and requiring intubation at a nontrauma center were included. Exclusion criteria included head injury secondary to drowning, stroke, obstetrical complications, asphyxia, and afflicted head trauma (younger than 5 years). Trauma center charts contained coalesced data from first responders, nontrauma centers, and transport.


Twenty-five patients (74%) had increased ICP upon admission at trauma center, 48% experienced ICPs greater than 20 cm H2O within 12 hours of admission, 12% required an urgent craniotomy, and 16% had herniation syndromes on neuroimaging. Pre–trauma center ICP management included osmotherapy and head-of-bed elevation. Sixty-four percent of patients with increased ICP at trauma center admission received pre–trauma center ICP management.


Early increased ICP is a common presentation of severe pediatric TBI during pre–trauma center management. However, what constitutes optimal care remains unknown. Given the difficulties of diagnosing early increased ICP in this setting, prophylactic raising ICP-lowering strategies may be considered.

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