Context: Prehospital hypertonic saline (HTS) resuscitation of patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) may increase survival but whether HTS improves neurological outcomes is unknown.
Objective: To determine whether prehospital resuscitation with intravenous HTS improves long-term neurological outcome in patients with severe TBI compared with resuscitation with conventional fluids.
Design, setting, and patients: Double-blind, randomized controlled trial of 229 patients with TBI who were comatose (Glasgow Coma Scale score, <9) and hypotensive (systolic blood pressure, <100 mm Hg). The patients were enrolled between December 14, 1998, and April 9, 2002, in Melbourne, Australia.
Interventions: Patients were randomly assigned to receive a rapid intravenous infusion of either 250 mL of 7.5% saline (n = 114) or 250 mL of Ringer's lactate solution (n = 115; controls) in addition to conventional intravenous fluid and resuscitation protocols administered by paramedics. Treatment allocation was concealed.
Main outcome measure: Neurological function at 6 months, measured by the extended Glasgow Outcome Score (GOSE).
Results: Primary outcomes were obtained in 226 (99%) of 229 patients enrolled. Baseline characteristics of the groups were equivalent. At hospital admission, the mean serum sodium level was 149 mEq/L for HTS patients vs 141 mEq/L for controls (P<.001). The proportion of patients surviving to hospital discharge was similar in both groups (n = 63 [55%] for HTS group and n = 57 [50%] for controls; P =.32); at 6 months, survival rates were n = 62 (55%) in the HTS group and n = 53 (47%) in the control group (P =.23). At 6 months, the median (interquartile range) GOSE was 5 (3-6) in the HTS group vs 5 (5-6) in the control group (P =.45). There was no significant difference between the groups in favorable outcomes (moderate disability and good outcome survivors [GOSE of 5-8]) (risk ratio, 0.99; 95% confidence interval, 0.76-1.30; P =.96) or in any other measure of postinjury neurological function.
Conclusion: In this study, patients with hypotension and severe TBI who received prehospital resuscitation with HTS had almost identical neurological function 6 months after injury as patients who received conventional fluid.