Severe pediatric head injury: the role of hyperemia revisited

J Neurotrauma. 1999 Oct;16(10):937-43. doi: 10.1089/neu.1999.16.937.


Diffuse cerebral swelling is a frequent finding after severe pediatric head injury, and is two to five times as common in children as in adults. Hyperemia or cerebrovascular engorgement has long been considered by many as the cause of diffuse swelling and raised intracranial pressure (ICP). Consequently, reduction of the vascular compartment by institution of hyperventilation and avoidance of mannitol has been advocated for the intensive care management of severely head-injured children. Suzuki and colleagues (1990) studied cerebral blood flow (CBF) in 80 normal, unanesthetized children. It was shown that CBF in normal children may range from 40 mL/100 g per minute during the first 6 months of life to a peak of 108 mL/100 g per minute at age 3 to 4 years, and down to 71 mL/100 g per minute after age 9 years. Considering this large range, comparisons of CBF data in children are valid only when small, well-defined age ranges are selected. When the CBF values of children with severe head injuries (described in previous research) were compared with normal values in children, there did not seem to be a substantial increase of CBF. Hyperemia may therefore not be as common in severe pediatric head injury as previously thought. Until we acquire a better understanding of the pathophysiology of severe pediatric head injury, and what the optimal treatment in children would be, there is no reason to treat children differently from adults.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Edema / epidemiology
  • Brain Edema / etiology
  • Child
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / complications
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / physiopathology*
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / therapy*
  • Critical Care
  • Humans
  • Hyperemia / epidemiology
  • Hyperemia / etiology*
  • Intracranial Hypertension / etiology