Background: In injured brain tissue with a disrupted blood-brain barrier (BBB) catecholamines such as norepinephrine (NE) are known to enhance glucose consumption and cerebral blood flow but may lead to an energy depletion increasing the risk of ischemia. Therefore it is of great interest whether the exogenous administration of NE used mainly to maintain an adequate cerebral perfusion pressure influences CSF NE levels or not, and whether elevated plasma or CSF levels of NE can influence the actual clinical condition. We addressed this issue by measuring the levels of NE in CSF and plasma and correlating them with the actual clinical condition of the patients.
Methods: In 29 patients with severe TBI (< 8 points on the Glasgow Coma Scale, GCS) NE levels were analysed by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) in paired blood and CSF specimens which were collected from days 1 to 14 after severe TBI (total number of pairs = 121). The integrity of the BBB was evaluated by determining the CSF/serum albumin ratio. The clinical condition of the patients was assessed by GCS.
Results: Elevated plasma and CSF NE levels were observed in 50% of all samples, most consistently in patients treated with NE. NE elevation in CSF was independent of whether or not the BBB remained intact. There was no correlation between GCS and the levls of NE in CSF or plasma either in samples from the treated or the untreated group.
Interpretation: Exogenous administration of NE seems to increase NE levels in plasma and CSF. However, in this group of patients with severe TBI there was no clinical evidence that exogenous administration of NE was detrimental to the traumatized patients.