Early fever after trauma: Does it matter?

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Abstract

BACKGROUND

Fever is strongly associated with poor outcome after traumatic brain injury (TBI). We hypothesized that early fever is a direct result of brain injury and thus would be more common in TBI than in patients without brain injury and associated with inflammation.

METHODS

We prospectively enrolled patients with major trauma with and without TBI from a busy Level I trauma center intensive care unit (ICU). Patients were assigned to one of four groups based on their presenting Head Abbreviated Injury Severity Scale scores: multiple injuries: head Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS) score greater than 2, one other region greater than 2; isolated head: head AIS score greater than 2, all other regions less than 3; isolated body: one region greater than 2, excluding head/face; minor injury: no region with AIS greater than 2. Early fever was defined as at least one recorded temperature greater than 38.3°C in the first 48 hours after admission. Outcome measures included neurologic deterioration, length of stay in the ICU, hospital mortality, discharge Glasgow Outcome Scale-Extended, and plasma levels of seven key cytokines at admission and 24 hours (exploratory).

RESULTS

Two hundred sixty-eight patients were enrolled, including subjects with multiple injuries (n = 59), isolated head (n = 97), isolated body (n = 100), and minor trauma (n = 12). The incidence of fever was similar in all groups irrespective of injury (11–24%). In all groups, there was a significant association between the presence of early fever and death in the hospital (6–18% vs. 0–3%), as well as longer median ICU stays (3–7 days vs. 2–3 days). Fever was significantly associated with elevated IL-6 at admission (50.7 pg/dL vs. 16.9 pg/dL, p = 0.0067) and at 24 hours (83.1 pg/dL vs. 17.1 pg/dL, p = 0.0025) in the isolated head injury group.

CONCLUSION

Contrary to our hypothesis, early fever was not more common in patients with brain injury, though fever was associated with longer ICU stays and death in all groups. Additionally, fever was associated with elevated IL-6 levels in isolated head injury.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE

Prognostic and Epidemiological study, level III.

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