The development of acute lung injury is associated with worse neurologic outcome in patients with severe traumatic brain injury

J Trauma. 2003 Jul;55(1):106-11. doi: 10.1097/01.TA.0000071620.27375.BE.


Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine the incidence of acute lung injury (ALI) in trauma patients with severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), to evaluate the impact of ALI on mortality and neurologic outcome after severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), and to identify whether the development of ALI correlates with the severity of TBI.

Methods: Clinical data were collected prospectively over a 4-year period in a Level I trauma center. Patients included in the study met the following criteria: mechanical ventilation > 24 hours, head Abbreviated Injury Scale score >or= 3, no other body region Abbreviated Injury Scale score >or= 3, and age between 18 and 54 years. ALI was defined using international consensus criteria. Glasgow Outcome Scale scores were assessed at 3 and 12 months. Bivariate comparisons were made between ALI and non-ALI groups. Multivariate analysis with stepwise logistical regression was used to assess independent factors on mortality. The patient's admission head computed tomographic (CT) scan was graded using the Marshall system, and the presence and size of specific intracranial abnormality was noted. Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score, Marshall CT scan score, and intracranial abnormality were correlated with the development of ALI.

Results: One hundred thirty-seven patients with isolated head trauma were enrolled in the study over a 4-year period. Thirty-one percent of patients with severe TBI developed ALI. Head trauma patients with ALI had a significantly higher ISS, a greater number of days on the ventilator, and a worse neurologic outcome for those who survived their hospitalization. Mortality was 38% in the ALI group and 15% in the non-ALI group (p = 0.004). Only 3 of 16 (19%) of the deaths within the ALI group were directly related to ALI. By multivariate analysis, only the presence of ALI, older age, and lower initial GCS score were associated with higher mortality. There was no association between ISS, the presence of arterial hypotension (arterial systolic pressure < 90 mm Hg) at admission to the hospital, or the amount of blood transfused and mortality. No correlation was found between the severity of head injury (GCS score, Marshall score, or intracranial abnormality) and development of ALI.

Conclusion: The development of ALI is a critical independent factor affecting mortality in patients suffering traumatic brain injury and is associated with a worse long-term neurologic outcome in survivors. The risk of developing ALI is not associated with specific anatomic lesions diagnosed by cranial CT scanning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Abbreviated Injury Scale
  • Adult
  • Brain Injuries / classification
  • Brain Injuries / complications*
  • Brain Injuries / mortality
  • Glasgow Coma Scale
  • Humans
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome, Adult / etiology*
  • San Francisco
  • Trauma Centers / statistics & numerical data*